Letters to the Editor: Are smartphone use and ‘distracted walking’ killing pedestrians?

Pedestrians cross the street in Boyle Heights.
(Los Angeles Times)

People are killed because of driving; that fact is inarguable, as shown by a recent L.A. Times report on the troubling spike in pedestrian fatalities in the United States despite falling rates in other industrialized nations. The simplest explanation for why people die while walking on the sidewalks and in the streets is that they are defenseless against thousands of pounds of swiftly moving metal and glass, posing an exponentially risk of death than if, say, a cyclist crashed into a pedestrian.

Initially, most of our letter writers blamed reckless driving and high speed limits for the increase in deaths, which was reflected in the responses published Friday. Some readers felt those letters came up short and fingered something that gets implicated in all sorts of modern ills: smartphone use, and in this case, only by pedestrians.

Patricia Thomas of Santa Monica doesn’t believe drivers are acting more irresponsibly:

I was surprised that not one published letter blamed pedestrians for the uptick in deaths.


It seems that with everyone’s eyes glued to their phones, pedestrians forget they are out in the world and think they’re safe. I don’t see drivers acting less responsible, though there continues to be heavier traffic.

Stephany Yablow of North Hollywood believes smartphone use isn’t the only offense:

Fascinating responses to the report about the increased number of pedestrian fatalities. Not a single one of the letter writers blamed the pedestrians.

Increasingly, and with impunity, pedestrians enter the cross walk after the “don’t walk” sign flashes, often with only a couple of seconds left on the clock. That countdown has two purposes: to give people lawfully in the cross walk a reminder to hurry up, and to give vehicles time to complete right or left turns and clear the intersection.

Never mind the increased number of people stepping off the curb in a stupor with their noses in their phones, the jaywalking and other unsafe pedestrian practices.

Venice resident Harris J. Levey bemoans “distracted walking”:

The other day I watched eight people cross the street. Six of them were on their devices, oblivious to their surroundings.

Perhaps the increase in pedestrian deaths can also be attributed to “distracted walking.”

Bill Spitalnik of Newport Beach, however, kept the blame on motorists:

The four letters in Friday’s paper were excellent and sorely needed. I have my own theory regarding what is happening on our streets pertaining to the increase in pedestrian deaths.

People hate being told what to do, especially in their own cars, even if it means putting other people in danger.

To improve enforcement, put red-light cameras on every intersection, police with radar guns on more streets and helicopters above the roadways. Of course, this will never happen, so the laws are not and probably never will be properly enforced.

People will die as long as drivers who think they are above the law maintain their sick and deadly attitudes.