Walking and texting at the same time?

About two weeks ago, I sat through my fourth and final college orientation for parents of incoming freshman. This time it was for my daughter, who is leaving in a couple of weeks.

Her school did a great job covering the variety of topics campus that parents want to know- from which meal plan to pick, where students can go for counseling, how AP credit works, and safety concerns.

 Campus police chief John Venuti touched on a few issues that parents might expect to hear about- binge drinking, late night walks from library to dorm, and campus computer theft.

But here’s one issue I wasn’t expecting to hear about.

The chief talked about  how many kids walk around campus completely unaware of their surroundings, engrossed in reading or replying to text messages or checking Facebook or Twitter updates.

Chief Venuti: his talk was a college orientation highlight.

It’s a concern at any hour of the day or night, especially on the urban campus my daughter chose. Kids cross the streets  as they check their phones for the latest updates,  oblivious to the traffic around them.

The chief  noted that on night time campus patrols, officers routinely notice students walking in unlit areas, distracted by the small lighted device in their hands.

Distraction from visual cues in the environment can increase the chance of becoming a victim of a crime of opportunity. Or getting hit by a car.

Children with developmental disabilities, especially with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are another risk group that may become distracted easily when navigating streets and traffic safely.

In the study, “Mediating Factors Associated with Pedestrian Injury in Children with ADHD,” in the August 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online July 25), researchers found that these kids may be more likely to be hit by a car while walking.

The study compared  78 children aged 7 to 10 who have ADHD with 39 children with normal development.

Researchers determined that children with ADHD appear to follow appropriate curbside behavior (wait before crossing, look left and right).

But the study found that they ultimately did not process the information necessary to safely cross the street compared to normally developing children.

Children with ADHD chose smaller gaps in traffic to cross within, and had considerably less time to reach the end of the crosswalk before the next car approached, resulting in a more dangerous crossing environment.

Study authors suggest that pediatricians can help prevent these pedestrian injuries by screening for ADHD symptoms and monitoring at-risk patients to reduce injury risk.

Parents might take a good look at their own cell phone use- and how they are modeling appropriate usage to their kids, right from the beginning. How does your cell phone distract you? 

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