Recently, a young woman in Wenzhou, China was walking along staring at her phone when she slipped and fell into the river and drowned. The tragedy happened just a few days ago and is an unbelievably sad and stark reminder of the huge dangers of “distracted walking” of using a mobile phone when out and about.
I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been for her and how devastated her poor family must be. Such a senseless and unnecessary loss of life.
This tragic death highlights just how easy it is to have a serious or fatal accident due to staring into your screen and not paying attention to your surroundings. We all know how quickly you can become absorbed in your little bubble as it happens multiple times a day but the consequences can be sudden and horrendous.
Can you recall just how many teenagers and adults you see on a daily basis crossing the road whilst they are using their phone? How many people do you see texting or using their phone whilst driving? As a parent, this concerns me greatly and I guess I have a great deal of work to do to teach my children when and where using their mobile phones (when they are eventually allowed one) is acceptable or downright dangerous.
There’s so much information out there about not using your phone at the dinner table, in a face-to-face business meeting and other social situations due to social etiquette but there is still very little information out there that shows just how dangerous it is to be distracted in everyday situations when you are travelling by foot.
The police have done an amazing job and driven it home hard, that using your phone whilst driving costs lives but I feel more needs to be done to educate the young and parents of easily distracted children (and let’s face it, children are by their very nature, totally distractable) about the dangers of simply being on foot and going about their everyday business.
Distracted walking could simply be just using headphones but with the music blaring but what frightens me the most about the bubble effect that interacting with a digital device causes is just how focussed people become on their phone whilst totally blocking out everything else. Safe Kids Worldwide estimates that teenagers account for 50% of pedestrian deaths of children under the age of 19 and the say that 1 in 5 school kids cross the road whilst distracted.
A study conducted by the University of Birmingham focused on injuries to children using cell phones. The study found that students using cell phones took up to 20% longer to cross the street than children who were not using a cell phone, slow-crossing students with cell phones were up to 43% more likely to be hit by a vehicle while crossing the street, and children looked both ways 20% fewer times when crossing the street while using cell phones. The extra seconds needed to cross the street are often fatal.
Image source: Safe Kids Worldwide
According to NBC News the problem of distracted walking has become so widespread that the National Security Council has added it as a category in its annual injury report for the first time ever and it’s become an actual public health concern.
Taking photos with the mobile phone can be just as dangerous, as the death of 33-year-old father of one, Joshua Burwell demonstrates. Joshua fell 60 feet onto rocks on Christmas Day from a beach cliff top after taking pictures on his phone and the rise of the ‘dangerous selfie’ just defies belief.
Image Source: Facebook
Then there’s being distracted on train platforms. We’ve all seen the warning posters showing how many accidents happen on tube trains due to alcohol but what will happen when free WIFI is enabled at every train and underground station. Doesn’t bare thinking about, in particular with the combination of weekend partying and phone distractions. The video below shows just how easy it is to fall on the tracks from phone usage.
On a lighter note, the good news is that it’s really not that difficult to remove yourself from harms way, you just need to self-regulate, be aware of the dangers and apply some willpower. The harder part is as I’ve mentioned above is trying to make your nearest and dearest aware of just how dangerous distracted walking really is. It’s not just a laugh out loud moment when someone bumps into a lamppost; it’s such a concern that there are more and more campaigns popping up to drive awareness to save lives.
I’ll leave you with a pretty powerful image which I hope is of some benefit to you and your ‘mobile phone owning’ teens and children.