26 June 2013
Injuries soar for pedestrians on smartphones
The number of injuries suffered by pedestrians while using their phones has more than doubled since 2005, with more than 1,500 pedestrians treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking. The authors of a new study that examined the trend believe that the actual number of injured pedestrians is actually much higher than official ER records suggest.
"If current trends continue, I wouldn't be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015," said Ohio State University's Jack Nasar, co-author of the study. "The role of cell phones in distracted driving injuries and deaths gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but we need to also consider the danger cell phone use poses to pedestrians."
A wide variety of injuries were reported, say the researchers. One 14-year-old boy walking down a road while talking on a cell phone fell 6 to 8 feet off a bridge into a rock-strewn ditch, suffering chest and shoulder injuries. A 23-year-old man was struck by a car while walking on the middle line of a road and talking on a cell phone.
Nasar said he believes the number of injuries to distracted pedestrians is actually much higher than the statistics indicate. "Emergency room numbers underestimate actual injuries because not every person who is injured goes to an emergency room," he noted. "Uninsured people might not go at all. Other people might take care of themselves, or go to an urgent care center. In addition, not everyone who does go to an emergency room reports using a cell phone."
The study reports that young people are the most likely to be injured by distracted walking. The 21- to 25-year-old age group led the way, with 1,003 total injuries during the seven years covered by this study. The 16- to 20-year-olds were not far behind, with 985 total injuries.
For pedestrians, talking on the phone accounted for about 69 percent of injuries, compared to texting, which accounted for about 9 percent. Nasar said he doesn't think the lower texting injury rate is because texting is necessarily safer than talking and walking. Instead, it is probably because fewer people actually text while walking than talk while on foot.
"As more people get cell phones and spend more time using them, the number of injuries is likely to increase as well. Now people are playing games and using social media on their phones too," he added.
Nasar said he believes the best way to reverse these numbers is to start changing norms for cell phone use in our society. And that starts with parents. "Parents already teach their children to look both ways when crossing the street. They should also teach them to put away their cell phone when walking, particularly when crossing a street."
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Source: Ohio State University