Distracted walking has become a new phenomenon with the emergence of regular cell phone use by youth. This immediate access to technology and social media has resulted in a culture of FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, and has possibly resulted in youth becoming distracted by their cell phones while driving and walking. In fact, Safe Kids Worldwide conducted a study where they found that 17% of middle school pedestrians and 27% of high school pedestrians were distracted by their cell phones. They also surveyed youth about their walking behaviors and half of the youth surveyed said that they walked across a street while distracted by their cell phone.
To pilot programs that could assist in curbing these rates of distracted walking, Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) received funding from Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to provide educational resources for 10 local schools in the Austin and San Antonio TxDOT districts to address distracted walking among youth during the 2018-2019 school year. These educational resources included:
- resource kits that contained print media and activity sheets, such as posters, yard signs, postcards and a relay race;
- a distracted walking obstacle course in which students set up and operated at each school to demonstrate how being distracted while walking affects walking behaviors;
- parent outreach brochures in Spanish and English;
- social media posts related to distracted walking; and
- support in conducting Field Observations. Field Observations consisted of the students observing their peers at a pre- and post- time-point to determine if there was a change in the rate of distracted walking after the educational resources were displayed within their school. The students observed their peers at various locations on campus during the beginning or end of the school day to count the number of distracted pedestrians verses non-distracted pedestrians.
The results of the Distracted Walking Field Observations in the Austin and San Antonio District are below. Five high schools and one middle school participated in the observation activity.
Distracted Walking Field Observations Summary of Results
|Percent of students observed walking distracted||41.45%||42.43%||+0.98%|
In summary, this project resulted in no significant change in youth distracted walking rates. Observations were conducted at the same time of day for pre- and post-observations.
Distracted Walking Field Observations in the San Antonio District Results
|Percent of students observed walking distracted||45.81%||51.40%||+5.6%|
There was an increase in percentage of distracted walking rates at the three participating San Antonio high schools. All schools conducted their observations at the end of the school day in the afternoon. The result demonstrates a need for more Distracted Walking awareness on participating campuses.
Distracted Walking Field Observations in the Austin District Results
|Percent of students observed walking distracted||39.9%||38.07%||-1.86%|
Although there is a small decrease in the percentage of distracted walking rates, the change is not statistically significant. Even though this is the case, the results are promising and demonstrate a need for more observations as well an increase in Distracted Walking awareness at the selected Austin Area schools.
Distracted Walking Rates by Gender
|Percent of students observed walking distracted||21.76%||19.69%||22.66%||17.06%||+0.9%||-2.63%|
It is interesting to note that during both the pre- and post-observations, the girls had a higher rate of overall electronic device use while walking compared to the boys. While we would have liked and expected a negative percent change (decrease) in distracted walking between pre and post observations, the girls had a higher rate of distracted walking during the post-observations. The boys on the other hand, had a decrease in distracted walking rates during the post-observation.
If this project sounds of interest to you and you’re in San Antonio or Austin, Texas, please contact your regional representative. This year we’re looking for more schools to participate in this program, and students that conduct observations on their campus will receive a $50 Visa gift card.
San Antonio, Texas – Rubi Mares, [email protected]
Austin, Texas – Gabriella Medina, [email protected]