Study Co-Authored by Lehman Professor Featured in the New York Daily News

March 10, 2015 12:13 pm Alumni, Health Sciences Dept, School of Health Sciences, Human Services, and Nursing

New York is the city that never sleeps – or pays attention when pedestrians cross busy Midtown streets.

At least that’s what a new study published in the Journal of Community Health co-authored by Professor Danna Ethan (Health Sciences) and featured in the New York Daily News recently found.

Professor Ethan and her co-authors observed distracted walking in over 21,000 pedestrians in five dangerous and overcrowded Midtown Manhattan crosswalks. They found that 28 percent of pedestrians were distracted by using some form of technology while crossing the street when they had the right-of-way, and 42 percent were distracted while crossing during the ‘Don’t Walk’ signal.

Their study comes hot on the heels of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s newly established Vision Zero action plan which promotes new guidelines to cut the number of traffic-related pedestrian deaths in the five boroughs to zero.

“Our study highlights the problem of technology-related distracted walking,” said Dr. Ethan. “Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero action plan is a step in the right direction but should address this problem more specifically through possible measures such as public education and targeted safety messages.”

Dr. Ethan’s co-author, Professor Corey Basch of William Paterson University’s Public Health department, noted the emerging health concern reinforced by their study: “It came as a surprise that there were so many pedestrians distracted by technology during the ‘Walk’ signal, but the fact that there were even more distracted by technology crossing on a ‘Don’t Walk’ signal is astonishing. It’s clearly a public health concern given that these intersections are incredibly busy and have been singled out as being dangerous.”

Pedestrians can protect themselves in crosswalks by turning down the volume on their headphones and looking up from their phones, Dr. Ethan suggests. “Pedestrians can do more to keep themselves safe when crossing busy New York City streets by paying more attention to their surroundings,” she says, “although given the ubiquity of cell phones and other electronic devices, this is no easy task.”

Prof. Ethan holds an MSW from NYU and an EdD. from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a professor in the Department of Health Sciences, which is part of Lehman College’s School of Health Sciences, Human Services, and Nursing.

Dr. Ethan’s study was also cited by The Washington Post, My Fox NY, and various other media outlets.