It seems like common sense: walking, or worse, biking down a busy city street while texting on a BlackBerry or other mobile device is not a very bright idea. However, US emergency room physicians say that's just the problem. A growing number of Americans, particularly teenagers and young adults, are demonstrating a surprising lack of common sense when it comes to texting and "multitasking"-and texting-related injuries, such as lacerated faces and sprained ankles, are increasing accordingly.
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) this week issued a warning about the potential dangers of texting while walking, driving, biking or rollerblading; it hopes to raise awareness around the issue as teenagers return to school. The statement follows an informal survey circulated between ACEP members that found that doctors around the country are seeing a rise in injuries involving text-messaging pedestrians, bicyclists, rollerbladers and motorists, according to the AP.
Teenagers may be the most prone to injuring themselves in this fashion, but in my personal experience, just as many adult professionals carelessly type away while plowing through crowds as do adolescents. After all, most BlackBerry users are businesspeople who have smartphones so they can catch up with work on the go. And sometimes that means texting while running to the next meeting or while trying to hail a cab to the airport.
It's easy to scoff at the ACEP warning or dismiss it as medical PR-as I've been wanting to do in the past-but the group also offered up some frightening examples of why you should take heed. Dr. Matthew Lewin, MD, PhD, an emergency physician at University of California San Francisco Hospital, cites the time he saw a woman who was texting step off a curb and get flung 30 or so feet in the air by a passing pickup truck. She later died in the trauma center of Lewin's hospital.
Dr. Paul Walsh, an emergency room doctor, tells a similar story in which a 50-year-old man was struck by a vehicle while crossing the road and speaking to his wife on a mobile phone. He too died from related injuries.
For me, this warning hits close to home, as I'm always texting and multitasking-though I don't own a bicycle and wouldn't be caught dead wearing a pair of rollerblades. In fact, I have a vivid memory of leaving an MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in a rush to catch the train, clacking away on my BlackBerry and tripping on a rather large pot hole just before the sidewalk met Massachusetts Ave. I twisted my ankle, sang a chorus of colorful expletives and landed on top of my BlackBerry, in the middle of the road. Had a car been coming, I might not be writing this post today.
My point: we can all learn something from this warning and the following five tips from Dr. Linda Lawrence, ACEP president.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.