text messaging

Pediatricians are being urged to advise parents and patients about pedestrian safety by the authors of a new study showing that child pedestrians are often hit by cars because they are distracted by mobile devices, such as MP3 players and cell phones.

That type of distraction and inadequate supervision were identified by researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center as being preventable reasons why kids who are walking are struck by vehicles.

The researchers said their findings should prompt pediatricians to advise parents and children about pedestrian safety during routine check-ups.

"In pediatric medicine as a whole, prevention is important, whether talking about sunscreen or getting vaccines," study author Dr. Nina Glass. "Emphasizing safety tips, such as not texting while walking in city traffic, needs to be worked into preventive health care measures."

In conducting the study, a team of surgeons examined data on more than 1,400 pedestrian injuries related to car accidents among various age groups. While they were unable to determine if the drivers involved in the accidents were at fault, they found that nearly one in five patients aged 13 to 17 were sending text messages, listening to music or otherwise distracted by a mobile device when they were hit. Only 10 percent of the adults in the study were doing the same at the time of their accident.

"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 6," Glass said. "All of them were supervised by guardians, but still, 44 percent darted into the street."

Children and teenagers, however, sustained mostly minor injuries, such as scrapes, the researchers found. Young people also were more likely than adults to be discharged from the emergency room without being admitted to the hospital.

While people aged 55 or older were less likely to be involved in a distracted pedestrian accident, when they are, they are at greater risk for multiple broken bones – particularly women, due to osteoporosis.

The study showed patients older than 55 had nearly four fractures per patient on average. Patients ranging in age from 15 to 55 had an average of less than three broken bones.

The study was presented at the 2012 American College of Surgeons annual meeting in Chicago.