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Distracted walking the latest distraction

Distracted driving has been recognized as a significant problem. Cellphones and other electronic devices have become so commonplace that many people probably fail to recognize that they are using them while driving. Activities like sending a text while driving have been shown by some studies to be similar to driving with your eyes closed for 4 to 6 seconds. Hence a growing outcry, and developments like the creation by the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Distraction.gov," devoted to raising awareness of the issue.

The problem with distraction, however, appears to be broader than merely driving. A new study form Ohio State University has found that a significant number of pedestrians suffer from "distracted walking." Often the result of use of a cellphone, the "inattention blindness" that causes distracted drivers is also seen in people walking on a sidewalk

The Atlantic article notes that victims of distracted walking in the study include a man who walked into a pole and one who walked off a bridge into a 6-8 foot deep ditch. An interesting element of the study was the number of those pedestrians injured by merely by talking on the phone, and not the more distracting activity of texting.

As another recent study indicated, it is not just the physical activity of texting or holding a cellphone that is distracting, but the mental activity of being engaged in a conversation. The inattention blindness is caused by the brain's inability to multitask, and reducing awareness of the driving or walking activity while it focuses on talking on the phone.

Whether walking or driving, the lesson seems to be that we should concentrate on that, and turn off the phone. 

Source: The Atlantic, "Study: 'Distracted Walking' Causes More Injuries Than Distracted Driving," Lindsay Abrams, June 20, 2013

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