Mobile Phones Find Creative New Ways to Maim Distracted Pedestrians

If people don't stop seriously injuring themselves because they're walking in a crowded city with their eyes trained on the latest cat-and-monkey-become-best-friends-and-steal-a-shopping-cart video, then some lawmaker is going to sense that there's an easy way to start generating revenue by having police issue distracted walking citations. Nobody wants that because, quite frankly, it makes everyone look pretty stupid.

According to the AP, the phenomenon known politely as "distracted walking" is starting to become a serious safety hazard for Americans who find themselves too close to the moving parts of an cityscape. In 2011, 1,152 people were treated for distracted walking injuries according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, though that number is probably really low because most doctors or nurses might not necessarily ask if a patient shattered his femur because he was playing Tetris instead of looking out for exposed manholes.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have made distracted walking injuries a little less snicker-worthy by identifying 116 cases in which someone was killed or seriously injured while wearing headphones, a personal choice that always seems a little unnecessarily dangerous for people going for a run on the street. Two thirds of those incidents involved men under 30, and about half involved trains. Those people who brought us texting-while-driving laws probably have a case, too, for banning texting-while-walking — traffic deaths have gone down since 2010, but pedestrian deaths and injuries have spiked 4.2 and 19 percent, respectively.

Texting-while-walking bans, though outwardly laughable, aren't really different from most other safety regulations, like seatbelt or helmet laws. (Texting-while-driving seems a little different, of course, since a texter behind the wheel of a car has the potential to careen a few tons of steel into someone else.) Still, "distracted walking" is really just "being careless," albeit with a tangible culprit — yet another evil permutation of the very technology that has seemingly made our lives way more convenient than they might have been even 20 years ago. Nobody would consider banning ambulatory daydreaming, though there have most likely been a not insignificant number of people throughout history who went bopping merrily along through the frantic world to their ultimate and unsuspected doom under the hoofs of a hansom cab.

Distracted walking a growing phone-related danger [AP via CBS]