TUESDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- Pedestrians are becoming
more likely to be injured while using their cellphones and an
estimated 1,500 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2010 as a
result, a new study finds.
It's impossible to know how many of the injuries could have been
avoided if pedestrians weren't using their cellphones. The study
also doesn't determine whether the injuries are on the rise simply
because more people are using cellphones.
Whatever the case, study author Jack Nasar said the findings
show that cellphone use isn't just a danger to drivers. It's also a
hazard to those who are only strolling.
"Stop walking when you're going to take a cellphone call or text. Don't do two things at once," advised Nasar, a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University who studies cellphones and distraction.
Nasar and colleagues previously reported that pedestrians on
public streets are more likely to have close calls with cars if
they are using their cellphones. In the new study, the researchers
sought to understand the risk on a national level by examining a
federal database of emergency room visits from 2004 to 2010.
The investigators found that the estimated number of pedestrian
injuries linked to cellphones -- including those that had nothing
to do with cars, such as walking into something -- varied from as
low as 256 to as high as 597 between 2004 and 2007. The numbers
then jumped to 1,055 in 2008, 1,113 in 2009 and 1,506 in 2010.
Deaths are not included in the study. It also doesn't break out
injuries by seriousness; some injuries were minor.
The study gives details about some injuries that have been
reported. In one case, a 21-year-old male suffered a sprained elbow
and spinal sprain when he was hit by a car while on his phone. In
another, a 28-year-old man walked into a pole and lacerated his
brow. And a 14-year-old boy fell several feet off a bridge into a
ditch, bruising his chest.
People under 31 were among those most likely to be hurt while
walking and using a cellphone, with those aged 21 to 25 sustaining
the most injuries, followed by 16- to 20-year-olds. Men were
slightly more likely (53 percent) than women to be pedestrian
The estimated numbers of injuries to pedestrians on cellphones
were roughly equal to those of drivers who were on cellphones. Even
at the height in 2010, however, the estimated injuries accounted
for fewer than 4 percent of all estimated injuries to
Nasar said the estimates in the study may greatly underestimate
the risk of cellphone use to pedestrians.
John Lee, a professor with the department of industrial and
systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who
studies distracted driving, said the new research has weaknesses.
"It could be that cellphones are associated with a greater number
of injuries simply because it is more likely that people are using
a phone at the time," he said, "and it is hard to know if cellphone
use actually causes these mishaps or is even associated with
Still, Lee said, "this research is consistent with other studies
that show a cost of multitasking. Technology tempts us to try to do
many things at once, but our ability is severely limited."
What should be done? Study lead author Nasar called for more
awareness, but he doesn't support laws banning use of cellphones by
pedestrians such as there are in some states for drivers.
The study appears in the August issue of the journal
Accident Analysis and Prevention.
For details about
pedestrian safety, try the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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