October 18, 2014 – In 2012, the city of Philadelphia played an elaborate April Fools’ joke on their citizens by creating a ‘texting only’ lane on a footpath. Two years later the city of Chongqing in China created a Smartphone sidewalk lane for people too occupied with texting, messaging, tweeting and surfing the internet to consider being mindful of who is in front of them or behind them – let alone where they’re walking.
“There are lots of elderly people and children in our streets and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” states Nong Cheng, a marketing official with Meixin Group that manages the city’s entertainment zone.
Meixin Group delineated 50 metres of pavement with two lanes: one that prohibits cellphone usage and one that allows pedestrians to use cellphones at their ‘own risk’. The partitioned lanes are intended to be sardonic reminding people that it’s dangerous to use a cellphone or other device while walking on a street.
Last July, National Geographic Television aired a scientific segment called, ‘Mind Over Masses’ illustrating a length of pavement on 18th Street in Washington, D.C. that was created as part of a behavioural experiment. While pedestrians were not taking the new lanes seriously, many were curious and attentive enough to snap pictures of the signs and sidewalk. Then again, people on their cellphones and devices did not even notice the markings on the pavement.
Walking While Texting = ‘Wexting’
A report surfaced from the University of Buffalo last March stating there are more distracted walking injuries per mile than injuries from distracted driving - including accidents from falling down stairs to stepping into oncoming traffic.
Realizing that Smartphones and other devices pose a real risk for pedestrian-related injuries, Britain, in 2008, created a ‘safe text’ street by wrapping padding around lampposts.
In Reading, Pennsylvania, a lady using her Smartphone fell into a fountain at a shopping mall and another incident in Melbourne, Australia reported a woman so engrossed in her cellphone she walked off a pier.
According to Dr. Dietrich Jehle, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Buffalo in New York reported that ten of thousands of pedestrians are treated in emergency rooms in United States each year. He believes that as many as 10% of those visits result from accidents involving cell phones. The number of injuries caused by texting and walking may be much higher than officials indicate because people are too embarrassed to admit they were injured while texting.
On any given day in any given city or town, children and youth are walking on streets while talking on their cellphones, texting messages with their heads down, listening to music with a headset or playing video games.
The danger is real – but not as much as the distraction.