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Americans are growing more and more aware of the dangers of distracted driving, especially driving while texting or talking on the phone. But now a new distracted danger looms: emailing and/or texting while walking -- distracted walking.
It almost sounds like a punch line, and the recent report from the Los Angeles Times certainly starts out like a techie joke. Woman in Silicon Valley walking down the street, texting ... walks into a sign pole. She drops her phone and her friends have a good laugh at her expense, but worse things are happening and not just in the Valley, all over the country.
Texting or emailing while walking takes your attention and eyes away from the necessary task of just looking where you are going. The Times reports accidents like stepping off curbs into traffic and nearly stepping into open manholes are increasing. An Ohio State University study found that for the past few years, the number of emergency room visits resulting from pedestrian cell phone accidents has doubled every year. The study showed that in 2008, just over 1,000 pedestrians visited emergency rooms for injuries like walking into a pole while texting or spraining an ankle after falling down while talking on a cell phone.
Like the spate of bills passed to address texting while driving, some states have attempted to widen legislation to cover texting while walking. According to the Times, at least two states, New York and Illinois, have considered laws limiting the use of personal electronic devices by pedestrians, but no bills have passed. Unlike distracted driving laws, the support is just not there; usually the only one in danger is the one not quite walking the walk.
But maybe technology will ride to the rescue and prevent us from walking in front of a bus due to an urgent email. The Times reports that new ideas and applications including making a smartphone screen transparent, or voice recognition that will turn speech into text, might just save us from ourselves.