New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Walk and Text

Tourist taking selfie in downtown Munich

By Jonathan Spira on 29 December 2015
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In my book Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous to Your Organization, I noted that the number of admissions to hospital emergency rooms due to concussions caused by collision with lamp posts by people walking on the street while texting had doubled every year for a period of five years.

The serious nature of the problem was driven home to me after a San Diego man plummeted to his death off a cliff this Christmas Day. Witnesses at the scene reported that he wasn’t watching where he was walking, but was looking down at his phone. In 2013, a tourist in Melbourne, Australia had to be rescued by police after she walked off a pier while focused on Facebook.

Ask yourself how many times in the past few weeks you’ve seen someone walking down the street, fully engrossed in an activity on his smartphone and completely oblivious to his surroundings. Once you think about it, the answer my surprise you.

In August, a study by a non-profit group representing U.S. state and territorial highway safety offices warned of the dangers on our streets posed by “petextrians,” a term defined by the Urban Dictionary as “one who texts while walking, usually unaware of their surrounding.“ The group noted that, while the danger was not as severe as a when a driver texts, “the risk for injury and death certainly escalates when a pedestrian is not focused on his or her environment.”

A 2014 study from the Pew Research Center found that 53% of adult mobile phone users have bumped into someone or something – or been on the receiving end of such an encounter – due to distracted walking.

Finally, Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization focused on preventing injuries to children, found that 40% of U.S. teens have been hit or nearly hit by a moving vehicle while walking.

Distracted walking is not limited to texting. It includes phone conversations, however rare these days, and listening to music through headphones. Or ask yourself how many times has someone stopped in front of you – oblivious to passers by – just to take a selfie?

The solution to the problem is relatively simple: Don’t walk and text and don’t drown out your surroundings on the street with music and noise-cancelling headphones. There is a clear safety reason behind most states prohibiting wearing headphones while driving. The life you save may be your own.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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