By now, most of us know that texting while driving is a seriously bad idea. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving is actually six times more dangerous than drunk driving.
But did you know that texting while walking can be deadly, too? And I’m not just talking about deadly to your ego when you trip off a curb and faceplant. I’m talking about tripping off a curb and faceplanting into an oncoming vehicle … fatally.
Another newly released government study indicates that pedestrian deaths involving vehicles are on the rise again, after they’d been steadily declining for decades. The rise began in 2009 and, since that year, such accidents have increased by 15% as of 2013. In fact, 4,735 people died in pedestrian-auto collisions that year, or about one every two hours.
Not all of those deaths are smartphone related. But some of them are. Ohio State University researchers found that the percentage of pedestrians killed while using cell phones grew from less than 1% in 2004 to more than 3.5% in 2010.
The reason is as simple as it is deadly. Distracted smartphone-engaged walkers—who’ve now earned the unwieldy and ignominious new moniker petextrians—not only fail to notice potential hazards in their environment, but they’re slower crossing streets, too. And they’re much more likely to forget that oh-so-simple rule that good parents drill into their kids almost as soon as they learn to walk: Look both ways before crossing the street.
That’s a commonsense rule that’s been around a lot longer than smartphones. But it’s one that those of us with obsessive smartphone habits might want to brush up on, lest we become a tragic statistic ourselves.