I was sitting on the passenger seat the other day when I noticed a person walking his dog on the sidewalk. It was a perfect evening for a walk, there was an orange pinkish sunset and a warm breeze, so it didn’t surprise me to see this man and many other people come out for a walk.
Then I noticed that this person was not even paying attention to the beautiful sunset or even to the road ahead of him. Rather, he seemed blind as though his fluffy small dog was a guide dog pulling him forward because all his attention was on a device that he was clenching with his right hand and to the sound coming from his earphones.
“Surely,” I thought “this must be the only person being careless and deliberately blind on a gorgeous evening like this” but as the car swarmed past, I spotted many other people doing the same. All glued to their phones as they were walking to their destination.
From that day on, I started to notice more and more people doing the same, they are either too engrossed in whatever they are doing with their phones, listening to music, or talking to someone they are with.
Clearly, when people are out for a walk, they are doing much more than that and that is what puts their lives at risk in America’s extremely busy streets.
I for one, have caught myself using my phone while walking to check my email or to reply to a text and I am sure some of you or someone you know is guilty too guilty of doing so. We do this without giving it a second thought of the danger that it places us in.
In fact, according to an article by Jeff Grabmeir from The Ohio State University called Distracted Walking: Injuries Soar for Pedestrians on Phones “more than 1,500 pedestrians were estimated to be treated in the emergency room in 2010 from injuries related to using a cell phone while walking.”
And as the article stated the number of injuries doubled in 2005 and 2010, a time when social media was just emerging. There is no doubt that that numbers since then have doubled or even tripled.
What is the problem?
More and more people walk the streets with their heads down instead of staying alert these days. The number of injuries involving this kind of risky behavior has recently skyrocketed to the point that the National Safety Council called it a significant safety threat to citizens in 2015.
People are more distracted than they have ever been with all the technological devices that have come to existence along with social media. These devices clearly pose a greater threat that can possibly outweigh their intentional good use.
For years and years now, we have heard of countless accidents that have occurred due to people using their devices as they drive. People have died and sometimes they got lucky and survived with merely a few scratches but unfortunately, that is not what happens in most cases, sometimes people even end up killing pedestrians on the street.
However, much of our attention has been there, we have that clear picture in our head of a driver using their phone as they drive but actually pedestrians use more of their phones as they walk. The reason this issue does not get as much attention as texting while driving is because people do not believe that they have this issue.
According to a study conducted by The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 2015 out of the 78% of Americans that believe that distracted walking is a “serious” issue three quarter say it is an issue that other people have but not them.
How does the problem affect us?
Most people will say that that is not them, that they see others walk distractedly but not them because they only use their phones indoors. What they don’t realize is that that is precisely what they are doing eat home in the comfort of their house.
The National Safety Council stated that 52% of distracted walking injuries involving a cell phone occurred at home.
Some of the injuries could be minor such as scratches or bruises but a study about the injuries associated with cellphones concluded that about 18% included internal organ injuries.
These types of injures can be detrimental to health and can cost thousands of dollars.
What is the solution?
We need to become aware of how big this issue is so that we can stop this risky behavior. Especially when it comes to children because they learn from the behavior of others.
In the U.S there are now cities that have reinforced no cellphone use while walking law and many more will probably follow soon.
There are a few simple steps that we can follow to minimize the risk of getting into an accident because of distracted walking.
How can we participate in the solution?
- Never walk while texting or talking on the phone
- If you must text, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk
- When walking, make sure you do not have headphones in your ears
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available; if you must walk on the street, face oncoming traffic
- Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street
- Cross only at crosswalks
What will happen if we do participate in the solution?
Distracted walking can lead you or your loved ones to get into accidents that can cause more than just a bruise, it could lead to hospitalization that can be very costly.
What will happen if we don’t participate in the solution?
But if you take these simple precautions, you can avoid unnecessary injuries and can serve as a role model to the new generation whose lives will revolve around distracting devices that can lead to extremely serious injuries.
Don’t be like the man who walks blindly on a beautiful sunset, rather put your phone away, take a deep breath, and enjoy your walk. You will do yourself a big favor by being in the moment and avoiding any distractions.
We have other articles about other issues that are very concerning today such as Child Obesity in Poor Latino Communities, see previous posts to read more.