Friday, May 2, 2014

Dangers of Pedestrian Texting

How many times have you walked down the street only to be jostled by a distracted pedestrian looking at his cell phone, texting or reading emails? Even worse, how many times have you found yourself walking along doing the exact same thing? I have. Too many times to recount, and research shows “the body's reflexes and movements change when texting or reading.” The participants of a study walked slower, swerved more and moved their necks less than when they walked without texting or reading.” It’s no wonder texters bump into people, trip over obstacles in the road, or fall down the stairs, and these are the less serious consequences.

Researchers at the University of Washington observed 1000 pedestrians and discovered that over 1/3 were distracted by their mobile device as they crossed high-risk intersections. In addition, texters were less likely to look both ways or obey the lights. Those who walk into the street have been said to incur pelvic fractures, lower body injuries, especially when they are thrown onto the hood of a car. Head injuries are also common when a pedestrian’s head hits the windshield. Of the 41,000 pedestrians treated yearly for injuries, up to 15% or 6100 involve cell phones which makes it a little less surprising that that there are more accidents with pedestrians texting and walking than those who text while driving.

After reading several articles on the dangers of pedestrian texting, I began to observe others' behavior. My first venue was at the airport on my way to California. I can’t say what the percentage of distracted pedestrians (a common phrase these days), but there were several including myself. As I walk to my gate I texted with my daughter some last minute reminders. When I became mindful of my behavior, I stopped until I got to the gate, but I realized my justification was that I needed to get this information to her because I was going to be out of reach for 6 hours. What does this say about my reliance on this communication device? As I’ve become more mindful of my addiction to my iPhone, I’ve begun to tell my daughters when I was going to be out of reach. This brings up a whole new topic of what I call “Emergency Parenting.” Why do I feel the need to be available immediately when my daughter needs something? I’m not sure about that one, yet, but I have used it as an excuse to text and walk. When my daughter texts, often, instinctively I will answer her even if I’m walking into Crosby’s Market or CVS. I often find it odd for someone to be talking on the phone or texting while shopping, but isn’t it the same as texting and walking. So many of us, or at least I, have an impulsive urge to respond immediately to a request, a question, or a concern, but I digress.

So what about our teenagers who endanger themselves with their distracted walking? It’s been said that 16 to 25 year olds are the most at risk for cellphone related injuries while walking. It’s been observed that “as soon as school is dismissed, students are out the door and the first thing they do is pull out their phone.” Some have proposed awareness campaigns in high schools, but it has not been implemented in very many schools.

Students aren’t the only ones. Assemblyman Harvey Munford of Nevada claimed, “When I’m driving up and down the strip in Las Vegas where the resorts are on the Strip, I see everyone on their phone. It’s like a drug. People are addicted to it.” He proposed a law that made it illegal to type or text while crossing a highway. 5 other states have attempted to pass such laws, unsuccessfully. Too much government intervention, but there have been some public service campaigns put into action. In San Francisco, after three pedestrians were killed while using mobile devices, the local government launched the “Be Nice, Look Twice” campaign. In Maryland, safety officials put stickers on the sidewalk that said, “Look Up.” Many suggest public service campaigns similar to drunk driving ones.

So what is the solution? I'm not sure but awareness of the problem both in ourselves and society seems to be the first step. When one practices mindfulness, one learns to practice living in the present moment, paying attention to what is, sensation, emotion or thought, but not attaching to it. Letting it be as it is. When texting and walking, there is little awareness of what is, and pedestrian texting, emailing, or reading takes us out of the present moment. We are no longer aware, alert, or cognizant of our surroundings further endangering ourselves and others. Similar to many suggestions for parents, the key seems to be to model early, as well as talk frequently about the dangers of distraction, both while walking and while driving. 

1 comment:

  1. People are addicted to texting. However one should never do distracted or drunk driving. Though for many people a DUI lawyer can help them to navigate court system and help sift through mandatory and subjective penalties but still this is a path which should be avoided. My brother is an intern with a Los Angeles DUI attorney and told me that a good lawyer can prevent loss of driving license as well as incarceration.