Tony Bizjak

Back-seat Driver: Pedestrians walk into trouble while texting or emailing

Published: Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 - 7:35 am

"It won't kill you to drive safely."

That neatly crafted slogan is part of a Folsom city campaign this summer to encourage pedestrian and driver safety.

The campaign includes a message that should hit home with plenty of pedestrians: When you cross the street, don't be texting or emailing or watching videos on your cellphone.

Pedestrians should be turning their heads and looking for cars, but the opposite has been happening. The technology that has made distracted driving a problem is also creating a new generation of distracted walkers.

"A lot of us get complacent when we're walking or jogging, (we're) assuming a driver is going to notice us, and is going to stop at the stop sign," said Folsom Police Officer Andrew Bates.

State traffic safety officials say they are hearing of instances of pedestrians hit by cars or just stumbling off curbs.

"It's an up and coming (issue)," said Chris Cochran of the state Office of Traffic Safety. "People are taking their brain off the task of walking and being aware of the world around them."

He's even caught himself doing it. "I've been walking and realize, this isn't really the smart thing to do," he said. He thinks of the irony: "If I were to be injured, as a traffic safety official, it wouldn't look good in a news report!"

If a pedestrian steps in front of a car without looking, the pedestrian may be legally at fault for what happens next.

Cars are not the only danger for text walkers. There's a famous Internet video of a woman falling face first into a fountain. Another guy walks directly into a wall. And a news helicopter camera caught this bizarre scene: A guy walking and texting in a Southern California neighborhood almost walks into a bear. (It had wandered in from a nearby wilderness area).

The texter lurches to a cartoonish stop a few feet from the bear, pivots and sprints away.

Pony Express

The Pony Express wasn't called "express" for nothing. The annual Missouri-to-Sacramento re-ride came pounding into town Thursday.

Horses sometimes top 30 mph on some sections of the American River Parkway.

Is that unsafe? This is the same parkway, after all, where rangers will be ticketing some cyclists for going too far over the 15 mph limit in crowded conditions.

The ride took place, though, at sunrise, with few others around, and involved just one rider at a time, organizer Richard Tatman said.

Chief Park Ranger Stan Lumsden said he wasn't worried. Rangers were alerted, and even unlocked gates for the event.

"People see a horse coming, they get out of the way," Lumsden said.

That assumes, of course, the person isn't busy texting.

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059. Follow him on Twitter @tonybizjak.

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