Have you ever sent a text message while crossing a busy street? You're not alone. Though no statistics show how many people actually send text messages while walking, numerous incidents continue to surface on the dangers of walking while texting (WWT).
Last week, 15-year-old Alexa Longueira was walking while texting on a street in Staten Island, N.Y., when she suddenly fell six feet into a manhole – and raw sewage. Though the fall left her with minor scrapes and cuts, her parents are still intending to file a law suit because the manhole was left unattended and uncovered, according to the Staten Island Advance.
This isn't the first walking while texting incident – other news articles have reported similar accidents – but Longueira's tale is once again a cautionary reminder to look up from that BlackBerry or iPhone when roaming the town.
A rising trend?
Over 3.5 billion text messages per day – 1 trillion text messages per year – were sent in 2008, according to the wireless industry's trade association. Though most pedestrian fatalities are more likely to result from jaywalking or drivers failing to follow traffic laws, walking while texting has become such a concern that The American College of Emergency Physicians issued a warning about the perils of texting while walking, driving, biking, or rollerblading, in July 2008.
Texting while driving (TWD) has been banned for drivers in 14 states and the District of Columbia, but currently no legislation bans walking while texting. Legislators, however, have introduced bills to try and curb these potentially hazardous scenarios. Last year, the Illinois General Assembly considered a bill outlawing the use of wireless devices at crosswalks, punishable by a $25 fine. Others have sought to silence iPods at crosswalks. In 2007, New York State Senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn proposed a bill to prohibit the use of electronic devices at crosswalks in New York, after a man who was listening to his iPod was struck by a bus and died while crossing a busy intersection in Brooklyn.
In 2008, a British telephone directory service, 118118, and a UK charity, Living Streets, fitted street lamp posts with rugby goalpost cushions on London's Brick Lane in an effort to protect those who sent text messages while walking. To bring about awareness, Living Streets, which promotes pedestrian safety, conducted an unscientific study of 1,000 people and found that 1 in 10 people said they have been injured when they were walking while texting. A video, showing people texting while running into padded street lamp posts, quickly grabbed the attention of the media and the public, spawning a series of headlines, until it was revealed as a publicity stunt.