Published On: Tue, Mar 4th, 2014

The Dangers of Texting and Walking

First it was portable cassette players distracting individuals from the world around them.  Then, the Walkman became even easier to carry around and with the headphone attachment, no one listening could hear any dangers.  Most recently, portable MP3 players have provided listeners with innumerable songs to satiate any mood, further thrusting listeners into their own world and away from the realm of reality.

Image/Accident Analysis and Prevention

Image/Accident Analysis and Prevention

Now, a new plague of distracted walking led by smart phones has hit city and suburban streets.  For individuals walking behind someone texting, the swerving around the sidewalk and mixed speeds is annoying and eerily reminiscent of following a suspected drunk driver.  When that texter abruptly bumps a pole or garbage can, there is a certain satisfaction that maybe that person will learn their lesson and refrain from clogging the morning commute on city streets.

Recent data from the past year, specifically a new report published by University of Buffalo professor of emergency medicine Dr. Dietrich Jehle, points to a serious rise in handheld phone related injuries beyond the bruised egos from bumping into things.  He reports that up to 10% of emergency room visits are related simply to texting and game playing while walking.  Such injuries range from contusions to broken bones and concussions as a result of “bumping into walls, falling down stairs, tripping over clutter or stepping into traffic”.

Even though emergency room visits have dropped from 97,000 in 2004 to 41,000 in 2010, cell phone related visits have tripled from 559 to over 1500 in that same span.  Last August, a study from Ohio State University showed that individuals aged 16-25 were at the highest risk of injury from cell phone use, accounting for over 40% of injuries during the seven year span.

Both studies agreed that this injury is most likely severely underreported.  This may be because, as Dr. Jehle notes, “patients tend to underreport information about themselves when it involves a behavior that is embarrassing”.  It is interesting to note that cell-phone related automobile accidents are 1,300 times higher than national statistics show because individuals are embarrassed of their mistake and do not want insurance premiums to rise as a result of a distracted driving conviction.  If these same numbers were applied to cell phones and walking, over 2 million people would theoretically be injured per year as a result, concludes the Ohio State study.

In London, bumpers have been added to light fixtures to prevent injuries from individuals hitting them.  At crosswalks, signs have been placed on the ground to attract warn the phone user that they are approaching an intersection.  What can the individual do to combat this distracted walking?  Many phones have hands-free capabilities to allow texting by voice, and apps are available that will perform similar functions.  Says Dr. Jehle, “[I] prefer that pedestrians keep their eyes off of their phones until they reach their destination, [but] the apps are better than nothing at all”.

Edward Marks is a PhD student at the University of Delaware.  His research involves the healing of burns and other chronic wounds using nanomedicine techniques, with the goal of pushing any advancement directly into the clinic.  Edward received his BS from Rutgers University and Masters from the University of Delaware.

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  1. Jacquelyn Morgan says:

    I have faced a lots of fear to listening danger.

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