SFPD Captain Connects Recent Wave Of Pedestrian Deaths To “Distracted Walking”

Police officers and high school students fanned out across San Francisco’s Parkside neighborhood today to warn residents of the dangers of distracted walking in the wake of frequent pedestrian accidents and muggings in the area.

Police Chief Greg Suhr joined students from nearby Abraham Lincoln High School along 19th Avenue this afternoon to hand out small cards with warnings about pedestrian safety.

Suhr said the prevalence of smartphones and other electronic devices has made people forget about an early childhood rule when at an intersection.

“When we were all little kids, we all got taught to look both ways when we’re crossing the street,” he said. “When you’re crossing the street or off the curb, you’re in harm’s way.”

Police Capt. Curtis Lum, who oversees the department’s Taraval District station, said there were four fatalities involving pedestrians in a two-month period earlier this year, prompting the campaign.

Lum said street robberies of cellphones and other electronics are also on the rise.

“People who have headphones on, or are looking down and texting, the phone is taken right out of their hands,” he said.

Lum said it was important for the students to participate since youth generally use the electronic devices more often.

“Kids are very comfortable and familiar with texting, so we want to make sure they’re not going to bring bad habits as they grow up,” he said.

Kamia, a senior at Lincoln, said she has witnessed a cellphone robbery on a Municipal Railway bus.

“You see a lot of people on their phones, listening to their music, not really focusing on what’s happening on the bus,” she said. “I think that’s a reason why a lot of theft of cellphones has been increasing.”

Barnaby Payne, the school’s principal, said, “People are sort of in their own worlds” while looking at their various electronic devices.

“They’re always connected but they’re sort of trapped in their bubble, so it’s always good to remind them to be alert and aware,” Payne said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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