I’ve often written of the problems of distracted driving, but today’s Austin American Statesman had an Associated Press article highlighting an increasing problem, distracted pedestrians.
We’ve all seen them (and admittedly, probably been them) — the person walking down the street while texting, checking email, or listening to music oblivious to the rest of the world. And they’re causing more problems.
Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency rooms has quadrupled in the past seven years, and that number is almost certainly underestimated because there is no system in place to ask patients if they were injured while using electronics.
There are also a number of anecdotal stories of problems on the internet, including video of some poor guy in Los Angeles who was texting a message to his boss and almost strolled into the path of a black bear.
Researchers aren’t surprised by the increasing problems. While all of us think we’re good at multi-tasking, science proves different. For example, recent studies show we’re worse walkers (we veer off course or miss a target) when walking while talking on the phone and while texting.
This isn’t a convenience issue, it’s a safety issue. Frankly, drivers are a big enough danger to pedestrians. We don’t have to be dangers to ourselves.
Also, this isn’t an entirely new concept. In fact, I wrote about the problem of “killer headphones” and distracted pedestrians here.