What is “Inattentive Blindness”?

Pedestrian accidents are a rising problem everywhere in the United States, including right here in Tennessee. Over the last decade, most states have passed stringent laws related to driving while distracted. In many states, it is illegal to text and drive or talk on the phone without a hands-free device.

But what about when we are out walking?

Distracted pedestrians are a rising concern, and solutions are not forthcoming. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that there were 5,977 pedestrian deaths during their latest years of data gathered.

  • On average, a pedestrian was killed every 8 minutes in traffic crashes in the US.

In Tennessee, we want to give you a comparison to highlight the growing problem. In 2008, when smartphones were in their infancy, and most people still used old-style cell phones, there were 1,183 pedestrians involved in traffic crashes. In 2018, when nearly everyone has a little computer in their hands, there were 1,675 pedestrians involved in traffic crashes.

Explaining “inattentive blindness”

Inattentive blindness refers to any failure of awareness we experience because we are distracted by something else. Our distractions make us blind to any dangers that could cause serious harm. Most of us have probably been guilty of looking at our phones when we are out walking around. It just seems less dangerous than the dreaded texting and driving we hear about so much.

  • What happens when we are busy reading an email on our phone and wander off course right into the path of a vehicle?
  • What happens when we are changing the music on our phone while we are out jogging and do not see the oncoming bus?

The seriousness of pedestrian accidents

Nearly every pedestrian accident results in an injury or fatality. The average passenger vehicle weighs around 4,000. The human body has no protection from the force of a vehicle slamming into it. Even pedestrian crashes as slower speeds can be devastating. It is not uncommon for us to see the following injuries as a result of a pedestrian crash:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Broken or dislocated bones
  • Severe lacerations
  • Limb amputations
  • Serious disfigurement or scarring

Each of these injuries requires serious medical care and can lead to tremendous expenses. Pedestrian crash victims may have to miss work while they recover and lose the income they need to support themselves and their families. Many pedestrian crash victims suffer from emotional and psychological damages.

How can you stay safe as a pedestrian?

Avoiding inattentive blindness requires you to resist the urge to reach for your phone. If you need to make a phone call, send a text, or check your email, stop what you are doing. Find a wall to lean on or a bench to sit on. Make sure you are safe first. Walking and staring at the screen will result in you running into a pole at best. At worst, you will walk into the path of a vehicle.

  • Follow all pedestrian rules, including using sidewalks, crosswalks, and obey signs and signals.
  • If you need to cross an area with no crosswalks or intersections, cross only at a well-lit area and wait for a wide gap in traffic.
  • Never assume a driver sees you and be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing and avoid walking at night if you can.
  • Drinking and walking can be just as devastating as drinking and driving.