How Cell Phones Are Putting More Pedestrians in the Hospital Each Year

Science & Tech / Gadgets & Apps

How Cell Phones Are Putting More Pedestrians in the Hospital Each Year

By: Nicole Capo

It feels like ages since someone reminded us to look both ways before crossing the street — and it may be time for someone to advise us all on proper pedestrian once more, according to new research being presented in next month’s Accident Analysis & Prevention journal. Hospital data from around the country shows that accidents involving distracted pedestrians have steadily been on the rise since 2005. The biggest culprit? Walking while talking on the phone.

Unsurprisingly, people who talk on the phone while doing other things are distracted, and that causes a major safety hazard when it comes to walking across a busy street. In fact, one 2008 study found that people who walked while talking on the phone were unable to recall what they had seen along their path while walking — and another study, in 2009, found that they didn’t even notice unusual things along their route, like a unicycling clown. As with the “invisible gorilla” test, it appears that people who are focused on one task requiring a fair amount of concentration are not actually able to multi-task their attention.

According to The Atlantic's Atlantic Cities blog, one previous study showed that people talking on the phone are actually engaging a large amount of brain power to do so; people in a crosswalk simulator took less time crossing the street when they were solving a math problem than when they were talking on the phone.

And, while texting is responsible for fewer accidents than talking is, it may just be because there were fewer instances of it happening, not because it was any easier for folks to focus on their surroundings. Despite the rise of smartphones, the study fails to look at people who happen to be using an app, looking up information, or otherwise using their phones as they leave the relative safety of the sidewalk.

The data shows that “distracting walking” leaves 1,500 pedestrians in the hospital every year. There are few things so important that you need to risk your life while crossing the street in order to check them on your phone. Trust us, hearing about last night’s gossip from your BFF or keeping up with the Royal Baby Watch isn’t one of them.

[Pic via Flickr -- Paul Sableman]

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