Distraction Isn’t Just for Drivers
It’s a car’s world out there. New Jersey, like the rest of the United States, built its cities and other infrastructure to support a thriving motor vehicle population. Nearly every resident owns or has access to a passenger vehicle, and the ones who don’t can hop on the nearest bus or train and zoom to their destination.
Unfortunately, this works against the pedestrians, scooter-riders, and bicyclists who venture out into the cars’ domain. And with the wave of wireless technology we’re seeing, drivers aren’t the only ones who are distracted while navigating the streets. You know who you are…
Earbuds and smartphones are the two main enablers these days, but just as almost anything can distract a driver, almost anything can distract a pedestrian. And our New Jersey pedestrian accident attorneys want to urge you to keep at least one ear and both eyes open on the road.
Distraction Is Dangerous, Says Science
The University of British Columbia studied hundreds of pedestrians at one intersection over a two-day period, recording walking patterns that could then be used to develop safer autonomous vehicles and design better roads. They found that more than 33% of pedestrians were distracted by their cellphones, and that “Distracted pedestrians had more trouble maintaining their walking speed and gait and took longer to cross the road, increasing the potential for conflict with vehicles.” In addition, there were physical differences in the behavior of the pedestrians based on how they were using the phone:
- Pedestrians who were texting or reading took shorter steps without slowing their step frequency; they had more unstable movement and disruptions in gait.
- Pedestrians who were talking took slower steps without changing the length of their strides.
Meanwhile, the University of Maryland Medical Center found that the rate of pedestrians listening to headphones who suffer serious injury has more than tripled in six years. This study was released in 2012, but we have no doubt that number continued to rise. The risk of injury in these cases comes not only from distraction, but also from the fact that headphones and earbuds block out sounds a pedestrian needs to hear—like car horns. The study’s authors call this “sensory deprivation” in which multiple stimuli divide the brain’s mental resource allocation. It sounds serious, and it is.
New Jersey has banned people from operating a car, motorcycle, or bicycle with headphones or earbuds in both ears. In other words, you MUST keep one ear free to the sounds of traffic. At this time, pedestrians have no such restriction, but it would be a wise decision to make.
What Comparative Negligence Means After an Accident
In practice, if you could have been more careful or made a smarter choice to prevent what happened to you, whether that’s being hit by a car or wiping out on your bike, the State of New Jersey has something to say about it. There’s a legal concept called comparative negligence that the courts use to determine both fault and how much compensation you receive.
For example, a driver who has both earbuds in is breaking the law; if she crashes, police will determine she was negligent by allowing the music to distract her. However, if the pedestrian she collides with was also blasting music in his headphones and stepped off the curb before he had a signal, it can be argued the pedestrian was also partly to blame. The pedestrian can file a personal injury lawsuit if he was less than 50% at fault, but when he goes to court, the jury can decide he was 15% at fault and reduce his compensation. If they awarded him $100,000 for his injuries, he can only take home $85,000.
These are all things to keep in mind, whether you’re strolling in the sun or catching a balmy breeze on your bicycle. Have fun, stay safe, and if you do get into a bicycle accident in New Jersey, don’t hesitate to call Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., for a free consultation. For over 25 years, Dave and Gabe have been helping victims get the compensation they are owed after a traumatic injury. To speak to us, please call (609) 240-0040 today!
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