Friday, September 27, 2013

Look both ways

    In concentrating on the obvious danger of texting while driving, it seems as if almost everyone has forgotten the first safety lesson about walking our parents taught us as children—look both ways before crossing the street.
    Legal penalties for texting while driving are becoming more common and more draconian for a reason. “At any given daylight moment across the U.S, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving,” according to the Department of Transportation. Forty-one states, including Idaho, now ban text messaging for all drivers.
    In this era of incomprehensible politics, it is truly astounding that Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma actually prohibit localities from enacting these kinds of attempts to protect innocent drivers.  The Idaho Legislature deserves credit for not going down that road.
    Distracted driving, however, isn’t the only danger created by our love affair with screens and instant communication.
    A study at the University of Washington had researchers watch people with cell phones. Of more than 1,100 Seattle pedestrians, about a third are focusing on their phones or music players when crossing the street, meaning not looking both ways first but just at their own palms.
    An Ohio State University study has documented the dramatic increase in emergency-room visits caused by distracted walking. “If current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015,” Ohio State University researcher Jack Nasar noted.
    Watch pedestrians in Chicago, Manhattan, Boise, or even in Ketchum. There they are, by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, texting away on their smart phones. It is pretty amusing to judge them as unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, but it is not so amusing to watch them bump into each other on sidewalks and subway platforms, fall into well-marked construction holes, or scariest of all, blindly walk into traffic.
    Maybe texting regulations pose the risk of the government becoming a mommy state, but finally it was our mommies who taught us to look both ways before crossing the street. It seems time to stop us, as she would have, until we take the lesson of looking both ways to heart.

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