Pedestrians are arguably our most vulnerable road users. Although they spend most of their time on the footpath, they are often involved in car accidents when crossing roads.
Hit and run incidents are not uncommon, and many pedestrians are hospitalised each year due to being hit by a moving vehicle.
Yet a group of researchers in the United States believe that some of these accidents could be preventable.
This issue was discussed at the 2012 American College of Surgeons Annual Clinical Congress, which has been running since September 30 and set to finish on October 4.
Surgeons from New York University Langone Medical Centre looked at common risk factors for pedestrian injury across different age groups.
They looked at data from more than 1,400 patients between the years of 2008 and 2011. They found that young people tended to have fewer injuries than older people, given that the elderly’s bones were often weaker.
“If you are older, and especially if you are a woman, you are more likely to have osteoporosis, so you are already at a higher risk for any fracture,” said lead author Dr Nina E. Glass.
That said, this doesn’t mean that young people are at a decreased risk of being involved in an accident.
The researchers found that one in five patients aged between 13 and 17 were struck when listening to music, using their mobile phones or otherwise distracted.
Children under six were also often involved in incidents despite parental supervision, says Dr Glass.
“We saw that a high number of these patients had crossed in the middle of the block or crossed against the signal, particularly younger children under age six,” said Dr Glass.
“All of them were supervised by guardians, but still, 44 per cent darted into the street.”
She believes that there needs to be a focus on prevention, and that pedestrians may benefit from being more aware of the risks when crossing roads.
“In paediatric medicine as a whole, prevention is important, whether talking about sunscreen or getting vaccines. Emphasising safety tips, such as not texting while walking in city traffic, needs to be worked into preventative health care measures,” Dr Glass advised.
While this study was conducted in the United States, it does serve as a useful reminder to both pedestrians and drivers alike to be aware of the risks – and pay attention on the roads.