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Distracted Walking Leads to More Injuries

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Texting While WalkingDistracted drivers are not the only ones at risk of injuries and death when they allow texting and other activities to steal their attention; a recent study finds that distracted walkers’ injuries have quadrupled in the last seven years and, as the Associated Press reports in USA TODAY, “are almost certainly underreported.”

More than 1,150 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms last year after accidents they suffered due to handheld devices, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, writes Linsey Davis for ABC News.

As Davis writes:

‘I think people aren’t quite aware of how dangerous distracted walking can be,’ Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, told ABC News today. ‘Keeping your head down while walking and not looking ahead of you can lead to a significant incident of injuries.’

Glatter said that he’d treated a number of patients for injuries ranging from facial fractures and eye injuries to blunt head trauma, nasal fractures, sprained ankles and foot injuries.

‘I see them frequently,’ he said. ‘In a typical week, we maybe see anywhere between five to 10 of these injuries.’

In Philadelphia, an April Fool’s Day joke, in which officials taped off a so-called “e-lane” for distracted pedestrians to use on the sidewalk, was taken seriously, Davis reports, and led to officials creating an actual safety campaign there after pedestrians objected to the removal of the joke e-lane.

And in Ft. Lee, New Jersey — a city of 35,000 — 74 pedestrians were hit by vehicles and two people were killed last year because of distracted walking, Davis writes. She adds that this summer, police there started giving out $85 tickets to residents caught jaywalking while texting.

Delaware, Utah, Arkansas, and Illinois have not succeeding in passing distracted walking bills that officials proposed, Davis writes. USA TODAY’s article writes about the Utah Transit Authority ordinance in Salt Lake City (SLC) that failed to become a statewide law. In SLC, it subjects anyone who crosses the tracks of its light rail system while using cell phones, headphones, or other distracting electronic devices to a $50 fine.

USA TODAY quotes one official who opposed its becoming a statewide law:

‘Look, I get distracted all the time,’ bristled Utah State Rep. Craig Frank, a Republican who opposed the proposal. ‘I have a smartphone, too. Walking on sidewalks, in stores and malls, and maybe in a crosswalk sometimes I’m using my cellphone. But I try to stay connected to my environment. I never thought the government needed to cite me for using my cellphone in a reasonable manner.’

Associated Press writes that according to psychological studies, most people are not able to focus on two things at once. “But like a lot of drivers who use cellphones behind the wheel, pedestrians often think they’re in control and that it’s all the other fools on their phones who aren’t watching what they’re doing.”

Rina Cutler, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for transportation, told the Associated Press about the distracted walking safety campaign that city is drafting. “One of the messages will certainly be ‘pick your head up’ — I want to say ‘nitwit,’ but I probably shouldn’t call them names,” she said.

Here is a video that went viral of a woman who falls into a mall fountain as she texts while walking:

Image by Oldmaison (Charles LeBlanc), used under its Creative Commons license.

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