'Distracted Walking' Is No Safer Than Texting Behind the Wheel

woman shopping and textingHospital cases like "28-year-old male walked into pole talking on phone and received lacerated brow" and "14-year-old male walking down road talking on cellphone fell 6-8 ft. off bridge into ditch" sound like they should be straight out of The Onion. But they're embarrassingly real and the result of a growing problem that researchers say is no laughing matter. "Distracted walking" -- aka cellphone use while strolling -- isn't only causing serious injuries and sending more than 1,500 people to the ER (a number that's almost tripled since 2004). It's also potentially more dangerous than driving and texting.

At least that's what a new study out of Ohio State University says. But rather than try to figure out which is the lesser of two evils, why don't we just face it? As one of the study researchers, Jack Nasar, notes of the dangerous dilemma, no matter how much we believe we can, "People really cannot multitask."


He explains ...

Tracking of brain activity shows that while it may feel like multitasking, people are rapidly moving back and forth from one task to another, they are paying less attention to any one, and getting stressed more.

And if stress isn't a big enough threat, what about injury? Researchers expect that 3,000 people will end up in the ER annually within two years. (By the way -- that number isn't covering all injuries, because either the pedestrian doesn't go to the ER or they won't admit the accident was a result of their cellphone use.) The real number of accidents resulting from texting or talking and walking in 2010 was two million, so it sounds like we're well on our way to doubling that.

It also bears noting that most injuries -- almost 70 percent -- happened while people were talking on the phone as opposed to texting. Not that anyone should be getting a free pass to walk around looking down at their phone texting, playing Words With Friends, even looking at a map/train schedule/something else related to travel.

The bottom-line is that, unless we simply don't care about hurting others or ourselves, we can't move and use our phones at the same time. No matter how "smart" the phone is or we think we are.

Are you guilty of distracted walking? What do you think it will take to get people to stop doing it?

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