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School's Open: Avoid Distracted Walking

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According to a traffic safety study about teens, one in five high school students and one in eight middle school students were observed crossing the street distracted. Students were most often texting (39 percent) or using headphones (39 percent).  Girls were 1.2 times more likely than boys to be walking while distracted but the pedestrian death rate is 1.8 times higher for boys, the Safe Kids Worldwide study found.     


One-fifth of children under age 14 who die in motor vehicle crashes are pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The fatalities are more likely to happen in the mid-afternoon, when school is letting out. 


To draw attention to the problem of walking and texting by young pedestrians, the Automobile Club of Southern California is “urging parents to speak with their students about walking safely to school without texting, and is asking everyone to walk and drive without the distraction of electronic devices,” said Anita Lorz Villagrana, the Auto Club’s manager of community programs and traffic safety.


“Moms and dads should tell their children and teens to remove headphones and put away cell phones and other electronic devices so they can see and hear traffic when crossing the street. It’s dangerous to walk in crosswalks and on streets while looking down at a phone screen,” said Lorz Villagrana. “Distracted walking behavior is becoming common as more teens and pre-teens use electronic devices.”


Distracted walking safety tips include:


  • Wait until you get to your destination before calling people, texting or gaming.  If you have to text or make a call while walking, stop and find a safe location.


  • Avoid using hands-free devices while walking – Hang up and walk!


  • Remove your headphones or turn down the volume of your music so you can hear what’s going on around you.


  • Keep watching out for cars while crossing the street. There are a lot of distracted drivers out there so keep looking all around you while in and around crosswalks.
  • Be a role model – pay attention while you walk and if you see your friends and family distracted while they walk – speak up.


“Late afternoon hours between 3 and 7 p.m. pose increased hazards for children walking from school due to more congestion from bikes, cars and pedestrians. “Drivers must watch out for children and watch for teens walking while distracted and reduce their driving speed in school zones.”


The Auto Club’s warning about walking while texting coincides with 7 million California school children returning to classrooms this month and in September and AAA’s 80th annual “School’s Open—Drive Carefully!” national campaign.  The campaign seeks to help families prepare for increased traffic safety risk heading into fall months.  


The Auto Club’s back to school safety effort includes distribution of more than 250,000 pieces of varied traffic safety materials to elementary, middle and high schools, law enforcement and community groups in its service region – the 13 southern most counties of the state.


Schools and community groups can request an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials catalog which features available educational brochures and tip cards, programs and safety initiatives by going to  To learn more about pedestrian safety, please visit For more information, email


Parents and pedestrians should remember these additional safety tips:

  • Children under age 10 should not cross the street alone.
  • Cross only at corners so drivers can see you.
  • Always use a crosswalk when available.  But remember that painted lines can’t stop cars.
  • Remove headphones and put away cell phones and other electronic devices when crossing the street.
  • Cross only on the new green light, so you have time to cross safely.
  • Use the intersection walk/don’t walk push-button.  Cross with the pedestrian walk sign.
  • Look all ways before crossing, watching for cars that are turning.
  • Never cross the street from between cars.  Drivers can’t see you.
  • If there’s no sidewalk, walk on left side of road, facing traffic, to see oncoming cars.
  • Use a flashlight or wear something retro-reflective at night to help drivers see you.
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.