Despite the recent drop in the number of injured pedestrians, total injuries related to walking while using a cell phone have more than doubled over the past decade.
Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at The Ohio State University, said that if this trend continues he wouldn't be surprised if the number of pedestrian deaths related to cell phone use doubles again by 2015.
He added that "the role of cell phones in distracted driving injuries and deaths gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but we need to also consider the danger cell phone use poses to pedestrians."
According to the results of the study people between the ages of 16 to 25 were at the most risk of being injured because of cell phone use.
The researchers analyzed injury reports of more than 100 hospitals collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System - a database maintained by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).
From 2004 to 2010 the investigators identified the number of pedestrian injuries which were associated with cell phone use.
The researchers came across several cases of accidents while people were walking and talking on their mobile phones. One case involved a teenage boy walking straight off a bridge into a ditch while talking on a cell phone, and another man was hit by car while walking across the road and chatting on his phone.
In 2004, around 559 pedestrians were admitted to hospital following an injury related to cell phone use, the following year there were only 256 cases.
However, the number of pedestrians treated in emergency rooms while using their cell phone has risen every year since 2005.
The figures are probably much higherThe authors say that the number of cell phone-related injuries could actually be a lot higher.
They believe that a better way of calculating the real extent of pedestrian injuries related to cell phone use could come from comparing distracted walking to distracted driving - which has been studied very well.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that texting and cell phone use have led to a significant rise in fatalities due to distracted driving, rising from 4,572 fatalities in 2005 to 5,870 in 2008.
Another study, which appeared in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology showed that people have greater difficultly maintaining a fixed speed, or keeping their car safe in a single lane when using their cell phone.
The researchers compared CPSC estimates for injuries among drivers who were distracted by cell phones with more accurate data gathered from emergency rooms.
The analysis revealed that the number of actual crash-related injuries in emergency rooms related to cell phone use is grossly underestimated by the CPSC. In fact, Nasar said that the real number of injuries is more than 1,300 times higher than what the CPSC estimated.
Data such as these for injuries among pedestrians isn't as available, but the researchers estimate there could have been as many as 2 million pedestrian injuries related to mobile phone use in 2010.
In addition, Nasar pointed out that not every person who experiences an injury actually ends up in hospital, such as those who are uninsured or who'd rather take care of themselves.
Nasar said: "It is impossible to say whether 2 million distracted pedestrians are really injured each year. But I think it is safe to say that the numbers we have are much lower than what is really happening."
Young people were more likely to be distracted while walking, especially those between the age of 21 to 25 (with 1,003 total injuries during the seven years).
Talking on the phone accounted for 69 percent of the injuries compared to only 9 percent because of texting.
Nasar believes that the increased injury rate associated with cell phone use while talking rather than texting is only because people talk on the phone more often than they text.
"As more people get cell phones and spend more time using them, the number of injuries is likely to increase as well. Now people are playing games and using social media on their phones too. Parents already teach their children to look both ways when crossing the street. They should also teach them to put away their cell phone when walking, particularly when crossing a street."
Written by Joseph Nordqvist