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Texting while walking not much of a danger in NYC, says new city study

2019-09-02

A pedestrian crossing street while looking at her cellphone. (AS photo/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

You’re probably not going to die if you walk down a New York City street looking at your cell phone.

Texting, checking email, Googling that restaurant across the street or just looking for your destination on a map factored in just two pedestrian deaths from 2014 to 2017, says a report by the city Department of Transportation.

Those two deaths were just a drop in the bucket compared to the 534 pedestrians who were killed on city streets during the four-year span.

One of the cell phone users killed in a car crash during the study period was texting, and the other was reaching for a device dropped in the street, DOT researchers found.

“DOT found little concrete evidence that device-induced distracted walking contributes significantly to pedestrian fatalities and injuries,” the eight-page report states.

A better way to improve pedestrian safety and save lives is cracking down on dangerous drivers, the DOT report says.

As smartphones rapidly grew in popularity, state lawmakers in 2017 passed a law requiring the DOT to look into “distracted walking.”

Though the DOT found the legislature’s concern was a non-issue, its report noted that the city is campaigning to encourage young people to be alert as they cross the street.

The report also states that motorists and cyclists distracted by their phones are much more hazardous than absent-minded pedestrians.

But the real problem, the DOT said in the report released Friday, is speeding cars.

“The best way to address distracted walking, and all forms of distraction, is by creating a road environment focused on speed management — where vehicles are traveling at a safe speed so that crashes can be avoided, and when crashes do occur they are not fatal or severe,” the report said.

City data shows that 63 pedestrians died in city streets in the first seven months of 2019, and that 115 pedestrians were killed in 2018.