In recent years, authorities and activists have created campaigns warning against the dangers of texting and driving.
Studies now indicate there is an additional issue at hand: the dangers of texting and walking.
A Forbes magazine article this year cited a Consumer Product Safety Commission study that stated 1,100 people were treated in hospital emergency departments in 2011 for injuries incurred because they were distracted while using their cellphone or other handheld electronic device.
That number has quadrupled from seven years ago, according to the report, which also points out the number likely is larger because either the patient doesn’t explain what he or she was doing when the injury occurred or it’s not included in the hospital’s report.
A 2010 Kids Count report stated pedestrian injuries involving 16-19-year-old victims increased by 25 percent over five years to more than 7,000.
During that same five-year period, ownership of cellphones by youths ages 12 to 17 increased from 45 percent to 75 percent, according to the report, which states 61 youths are struck by a vehicle every day in the United States.
The problems aren’t only related to vehicles. Those emergency room visits included injuries caused by running into things. Some surveys indicated about 25 percent of people who text while walking said they have tripped and fallen.
The information might surprise some people, but Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan said all you have to do is watch people walking while texting to see how the injuries happen.
“You see people so engrossed in it, not just texting but playing games on the phone while walking,” Logan said. “They absolutely lose all sense of what’s going on around them. I’m surprised those numbers are not even higher.
“If you drive through any school zone in the afternoon and watch the kids when they’re getting out, they’re not looking where they’re going and they’ve got those little thumbs going.”
A 2010 article in The New York Times discussed a study at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. Psychology professor Ira Hyman headed the study, in which one of his students dressed as a clown and rode a unicycle around a central square on campus.
Those who walked past the scene were asked whether they noticed the clown. About half said they had, but 25 percent of those who were talking on a cellphone said they had, according to the article.
The study also revealed about half the people who walked in pairs said they saw the clown, so having a conversation did not appear to distract them, the article states. Hyman calls the cellphone preoccupation “inattention blindness.”
Eddie Russell, project coordinator for the North Alabama Highway Safety Office in Colbert County, said it’s dangerous to shift your focus elsewhere while walking in areas where there is traffic.
“Anytime, whatever you’re doing, it’s hard to keep your attention on two things at the same time,” Russell said. “When you’re driving you have to keep your eyes on the road, and when you’re walking you’ve got to keep your eyes out for what’s happening on the road. You don’t know if the person driving the car is texting. You not only have to watch what you’re doing, but have to watch for cars.
“You could walk out in front of a car and get hit, even if the driver is doing everything he’s supposed to be doing. You’ve got to keep your eyes on what you’re doing and the task at hand, whether you’re walking or driving.”
Russell said he once walked into a door frame while texting. “So I can vouch for that. It’s easy to do because we’re all rushed for time and trying to multitask but there are times when we shouldn’t be multitasking because it’s dangerous.
“The only time texting is a good thing is when you’re sitting down and that’s all you’re doing.”
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.