Distracted Walking Sending Pedestrians To The ER

A new study, “Pedestrian Injuries Due to Mobile Phone Use in Public Places,” published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, finds more and more pedestrians are patronizing US emergency rooms, likely due to their distraction-causing cellphone use.

An estimated 1,500 people were treated in 2010 – injured after walking directly into the path of traffic, blindly stepping off a bridge, or wandering headlong into a lamppost.

Although the study does not definitively determine if the cellphones/smartphones themselves are solely responsible for the increase of injuries, it is noteworthy to consider their use is a contributing factor to distraction, supporting the premise that cellphones are not just a growing danger to drivers.

Study author Jack Nasar – a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University, who studied the correlation between cellphones and distraction – cautions against pedestrian multitasking, which includes taking calls and composing texts while on a stroll.

People need to look up from their device every once in a while.

Nasar and his colleagues previously reported that pedestrians on public streets are more likely to have close calls with cars if they are using their cellphones. In the new study, the researchers sought to understand the risk on a national level by examining a federal database of emergency room visits from 2004 to 2010, reports MSN.

Research found an estimated number of pedestrian injuries – such as walking into something – corresponded with admitted cellphone use. Between 2004 and 2007, ER visits varied from 256 to 597. The numbers then jumped to 1,055 in 2008, 1,113 in 2009 and 1,506 in 2010 – perhaps due to the increase in cellphone ownership and use.

The majority of accident prone cellphone users were those under the age of 31. Strollers 21 to 25 sustained the most injuries followed up by 16 to 20-year olds. Fifty-three percent of victims were male.

Deaths were not calculated into the figures – only minor to serious injuries requiring an ER trip.

These visits included a 21-year-old male who suffered a sprained elbow and spinal injury when he was hit by a car while on his phone. In another, a 28-year-old man walked into a pole and lacerated his brow. And a 14-year-old boy fell several feet off a bridge into a ditch.

Study numbers may greatly underestimate the risk of cellphone use to pedestrians. The Atlantic reports, these numbers don’t include people who chose not to seek out emergency care, or who died on the scene. The authors have reason to believe the total number of pedestrian injuries were much higher – as many as 2 million in 2010.

Several other similar studies have found cellphone/smartphone use can increase the likelihood of injury among pedestrians.

Analysts don’t feel a law is necessary banning the use, the same way many states outlaw the use of phones while driving, but insist pedestrians practice common sense and be more aware of their surroundings especially when crossing the street.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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