A New Danger: Don’t Talk and Walk

don't talk and walk
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Friends don’t let friends text and drive. But should you let friends text and walk? What about talk and walk?

Apparently not. The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System revealed there were 1,506 emergency room-worthy injuries from people texting or talking and walking in 2010. In 2004, there were only 559 pedestrian phone-related injuries. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the drastic increase isn’t related to an increase in general stupidity or lack of coordination, rather than increased use of smartphones, and more and more kids and teenagers having their own phones. Two thirds of the injuries between 2004 and 2010 happened in people under the age of 25. I guess we need to add “hang up your phone” to looking both ways before crossing the street in standard early childhood education. It’s worth noting that injuries were higher among men as well. (See, women are the smarter sex.) While television campaigns have made many of us aware of the awful dangers of texting and driving, the number of injuries from cellphone use surpassed those of driving in 2010.

The report points out that the cause isn’t actually cell phones themselves- it’s the lack of awareness to what’s going on around the user. Looking down, not focusing, and being distracted all come into play. You may miss a curb or a pothole in the sidewalk, or maybe you don’t see an oncoming cyclist. You may not realize you’re about to cross a street or that the person in front of you has suddenly stopped. Maybe you don’t notice you’ve reached the edge of the subway platform or end of an escalator. I can’t imagine all the different situations in which an injury occurs, but as a somewhat clumsy person myself, I can only imagine the vast scenarios. A study in Injury Prevention showed it took people texting 18% longer to cross the street, and that they were 4 times more likely to disobey traffic signals.

While you may think this is the punch line of a bad joke, walking and talking on the phone is actually considered a crime (or at least a fine) in some cities. And believe it or not, there’s even an app for that: CrashAlert uses a camera to let you know if there’s an upcoming obstacle in your path. How about just putting your phone in your pocket?