She stepped off the curb against the light when she thought the road was clear, said Parker, also 13. Pileggi grabbed her backpack and pulled her to safety as a car drove by.
"It's easy for us to get really distracted and then get whammed," Pileggi said.
Among children, teens and tweens - those aged 10 to 19 - are now the most likely to be injured in a pedestrian accident, according to a nationwide report released last month by Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization that seeks to prevent unintentional childhood injuries.
To blame, the researchers theorized, is the growing incidence of distracted walking by youths talking, tapping out text messages, or otherwise engaged with handheld electronics, sometimes while wearing headphones or ear plugs.
More than three-quarters of U.S. children ages 12 to 17 had a cellphone in September 2009, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Research this year found they sent an average of 60 texts a day.
Mitch Spector, who owns a violin store near Kings Highway and Haddon Avenue, sees a lot of foot traffic at the busy intersection, especially after school.
Children and teenagers are using cellphones and texting while walking "every day, all day," Spector said.
"A lot of them are walking by in groups, talking as kids their age do," Spector said. Many seem preoccupied, he said, though he has never witnessed a pedestrian accident.
Younger children are less apt to use electronics while walking, which could account for the shifting demographics in pedestrian accidents.
In 1995, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, those 5 to 9 years old were the nation's most at-risk pedestrians. By 2010, their annual rate of injury had fallen by nearly two-thirds.
Among pedestrians through age 19, the overall rate of injuries declined 44 percent and deaths 53 percent during the period. Those 15 to 19 also saw a decline in their injury rate.
Yet among those 16 to 19, the actual number of injuries spiked 25 percent for the period 2006 to 2010 compared with the previous five years, researchers found.
The story was similar locally. In Pennsylvania, among pedestrians of all ages, those 5 to 9 had the highest percent of injuries in 2000, according to the state Department of Transportation. By 2010, those most likely to sustain an injury were 10 to 19.
On Sept. 12, a 16-year-old pedestrian who police say was listening to music through headphones was critically injured in Glenside when he was struck by a commuter train he apparently didn't hear.
New Jersey does not keep statistics on pedestrian injuries among children, but as in Pennsylvania, the childhood group most likely to be in a fatal pedestrian accident changed from 5 to 9 years old in 2001 to ages 15 to 19 in 2010, according to the New Jersey State Police.
The nationwide decline in pediatric pedestrian injuries and deaths shows "the work we have been doing with younger kids has clearly been effective," Maureen Donnelly, coordinator of Safe Kids Southern New Jersey, led by the Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper, said in a statement. But the trend "impacting our teenagers is disturbing."
Donnelly also attributes their vulnerability to the large percentage who walk while using phones or tablets. This presents a new challenge to safety educators, who are more accustomed to working with young children, she said.
Safe Kids Southern New Jersey plans to collaborate with the state’s Brain Injury Alliance and Division of Highway Traffic Safety to address the issue of distracted walking, Donnelly said.
The organization, which previously focused on distracted driving when working with teenagers, “will definitely try to bring programs to middle schools and high schools” about pedestrian safety, she said.
It also has advocated for more crosswalks, sidewalks, and crossing guards, and discourages phone use by pedestrians and drivers.
Safe Kids Southeastern Pennsylvania Coalition sponsored the redesign of a West Philadelphia intersection to alleviate pedestrian traffic and added a “countdown” crosswalk signal near a charter school in the city’s Southwest section, said Gina Duchossois, the group’s coordinator and an injury-prevention specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The projects were funded by FedEx, which is a partner with Safe Kids on the national Walk This Way program.
The trauma unit at Cooper University Hospital has seen an increase in pedestrian injuries among youths and adults, said Dave Groves, the facility’s Trauma Outreach Coordinator. He speculated that the causes include cellphone distraction and — among adults — increased unemployment, which has led more to walk instead of ride.
Groves teaches driver’s education in seven New Jersey counties and conducts programs on topics including drug use and driving safety. Though he addresses distracted walking, the issue does not yet merit its own program in the state. But it bears watching, he said.
“Just in the last year or two we’ve seen an uptick” in trauma cases related to pedestrian injuries, he said.
Contact Erin Quinn at 856-779-3990 or email@example.com.