STRANGE BUT TRUE: Texting while walking could prove risky

Emergency rooms are seeing a spike in injuries due to using a cellphone while walking.
BY BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D. Published: February 4, 2014


Q. What's possibly the hippest new reason for a trip to the emergency room?

A. Distracted walking, as there are more and more “Pedestrian Injuries Due to Mobile Phone Use in Public Places,” according to the authors of a journal report, says Steve Mirsky in Scientific American magazine. Using data from 100 U.S. hospitals to approximate this injury rate, it was estimated that in 2004 some 560 people had whacked themselves hard enough on a telephone pole to need emergency room treatment; by 2010, the number had likely topped 1,500 (from Accident Analysis & Prevention). During the same time period, other sorts of injuries to pedestrians actually decreased.

As it turns out, 16- to 25-year-old males comprise the group most prone to this type of injury. But young people are not the only distracted ones, Mirsky adds. “I know of a prominent scientist who tumbled down the stairs while screwing around on a phone and wound up hospitalized. This person knows all too well that whether you are using an iPhone, a Galaxy, a Droid or a Jitterbug, force equals mass times acceleration.”

And as Ohio State University's study co-author Jack Nasar said, the official numbers were probably underestimated because not everyone who gets hurt goes to the hospital and not everyone who goes openly admits to having walked into a fire hydrant.

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