If you find yourself walking down the sidewalk, bike path or road, the familiar buzzing of a text or an email elicits the temptation to pull out your cell phone and take a quick peek. This seemingly innocent act of staying in touch with important issues and people can have unexpected consequences.
Falling off the curb, tripping over an obstruction, running into other people, slipping on an icy patch or being hit by a car are all very real dangers for distracted walkers. “We have been caring for pedestrian injuries at a regular rate,” said Dr. Thomas Allen of Advance ER. “No one likes to fall and skin a knee, but injuries from falling become much more serious when patients are over 55 years of age or, of course, if a vehicle is involved.”
Teenagers who are distracted with their technology are becoming increasingly at-risk for injuries while walking. Alarmingly, over 40% of teens have been hit or nearly hit by a car, bicycle or motorcycle while walking, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. In another study, Safe Kids discovered that 1 in 5 high schoolers cross streets while digitally distracted.
However dangerous it is to be outside and distracted, studies show it is equally disastrous to be at home and walking while using a phone. According to the National Safety Council, 52% of distracted walking incidents occur at home. Women log in more accidents at 68% than men do.
Other than digging through the attic for an old push-button or, even worse, rotary phone, and subscribing to a landline number, what can we do to be safe while walking and talking or texting? Dr. Petit recommends these three simple ways to sidestep an injury while walking and using your phone:
Use Voice Options
If you must send a text while walking, enable the phone’s voice commands and talk your text. Use discernment about which texts are urgent and which ones can wait until you stop. If voice commands are riddled with errors, find a place to stop that’s out of the way and finish your text before resuming your walk. For phone conversations, end the call when you need to cross the road or when you are entering a very busy location.
Develop Good Habits
Try thinking outside of the box when it comes to your cell phone. Are you tyrannized by technology? Do you have to see every email as soon as it comes in, or can you wait and check them once an hour? Can you set your phone aside so you can walk safely down the street and not bump into other people, possibly injuring someone else? Applying a little self-discipline with your technology gives you the two-fold benefit of safety and confidence. “Your safety and the safety of others should be your first concern,” said Dr. Petit.
Practice Street Safety
When you need to cross a street, put your phone away. Remember the tips your mother gave you: use crosswalks when possible, follow traffic signals, look both ways, make sure the oncoming driver sees you, consider how visible you are in the current conditions and err on the side of caution. If you are wearing headphones or earbuds, keep the volume down or only use one ear so you can hear oncoming traffic.
At Advance ER, we see patients of all ages who have suffered injuries or are experiencing major or minor illnesses. If you have a medical need and want to be seen right away by a board-certified pediatric or adult specialist, stop by one of our two convenient locations. Open 24-hours a day, Advance ER puts patients first.
Meet Dr. Thomas Allen:
Dr. Thomas Allen, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He received his medical degree from Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine and has been in practice for 22 years. Dr. Allen then went to the University of Texas at Houston for his Emergency Medicine Residency. Since graduating, he has worked at high volume high acuity inner-city trauma centers and held medical director positions at a level 2 trauma center. He also spent the last 10 years as medical director for an air ambulance service and has been involved in medical missions to Bosnia with International Medical Corp. Dr. Allen also visited Uganda with a surgical team to help in small villages without medical access. Dr. Allen is married with one beautiful nine-year-old daughter whom he loves to take to visit the mountains and enjoy hiking as a family.