One of the newest forms of preventable injury comes via your cell phone.  Now that these devices are ubiquitous and addictive, we are seeing some very serious medical consequences not only for drivers, but for pedestrians.  

walking while texting

Walking while Texting, otherwise known as “WEXTING” is the latest hazard to clog up emergency wards. Sometimes the results are comical, but serious inuries or even death can be the consequence of your next step. 

In headline news we have seen carnage caused by train and bus drivers who are texting and not paying attention to their driving.  Hundreds of needless deaths are caused by such dereliction of responsibility.  Even thousands more are killed as a consequence of texting drivers of cars and trucks.  Driving while talking on a cell phone is illegal in many jurisdictions, so many people have switched to texting.  The results are not much better than talking; one’s focus is taken up by the phone, not the road ahead.  To this point, many police now can charge drivers with “driving while distracted”, even if they were not actually holding the phone to their ear .  But the one place people think is safe to text is walking.  After all, what harm could come to a pedestrian who walks and texts at the same time?  Well, as it turns out, a lot.  Maybe walking and chewing gum is as much multi-tasking as most people should handle.

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In one US study recently it was estimated that over 60,000 people were injured while walking/texting, and 4,000 of them were killed.  

walking while texting
People use their cell phones during a recess at the Supreme Court of Canada during the case involving the challenge of a $35-billion takeover of BCE Inc. by the Ontario Teachers Pension in Ottawa on Tuesday June 17, 2008. Sean Kilpatrick/ Globe and Mail

Distracted walkers have been run over by cars, as they tend to step into an intersection without looking in either direction.  Most take an extra 2 full seconds to cross the road, as they walk 20 percent slower while their fingers dance across the keyboards.  Some have fallen into manholes, fountains, and down staircases.  Others have walked of the ends of piers into the sea, and still others into plate glass windows.  Injuries tend to be fractures to bones in the face, eye injuries, concussions, or fractured feet and legs.  If the victim walks into a moving vehicle, the whole body can be crushed with fatal results.

 In the city of London, experiments have started with padding telephone poles to prevent concussions as pedestrians lead with the top of their heads, while focussing on the little screen in their hands. 

walking while texting

 Whether dialing for new songs on your iphone, talking to a real person via your telephone, or texting, the results can be a catastrophe.

In the car, it has now been shown that talking , even through your car’s speakers, can be just as distracting as holding an actual phone to your ear.  Our heads are already swimming in an information overload, so even the mental stimulation of conversation can have disastrous results on your present reflexes. This fact has led to police charging distracted drivers even if their phone conversation allowed both hands to be on the steering wheel.  With pedestrians who text, their entire head is pointed to the ground, leaving them blind to forward obstacles.  Even worse when combined with ear buds, now they are also deaf to the noises of surrounding runners, bikes, and cars. 

View this brief news video for some Wexting visual images.

So the action tip is clear.  Just because you are not driving does not mean that walking is always safe.  Texting, dialing up songs, or watching YouTube while you walk is an invitation to trouble.  Give yourself a break, and try to unplug when you are in motion.  Otherwise your next text could be to call for an ambulance.  From a time management point of view, its worth spending a few seconds to stop moving while using your cell phone, in order to avoid spending hours or years recovering from your injuries.  

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