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Unaware of being unaware: 'petextrians' and dangerous walking

A half century ago, when the original Star Trek series began, the communication devices carried by Captain Kirk and his crew were cutting edge. In the age of the landline, calling a spaceship from a handheld device was pretty cool.

Today, of course, Kirk's communicator seems primitive compared to our smartphones. But these phones have such astonishing capacity that they can be addictive, keeping eyes glued to the screen even as someone tries to perform other activities.

The dangers of digital device use while driving are by now widely known. But there is also a growing problem with distracted walking. In this post, we will inform you about this new phenomenon, which has led to the coinage of a new term: petextrian.

Accidents and injuries

A petextrian is someone who walks while also simultaneously trying to use a cellphone, tablet or other digital device. It's someone who, as an educator from the Minnesota Safety Council puts it, is unaware of being unaware of his or her surroundings.

The dangers of this were vividly illustrated in a tragic incident in late December of last year. A 33-year-old man fell to his death over a cliff in California, apparently while trying to use his phone to take a picture of a scenic sunset. He had been looking down at the device so much that he wasn't watching where he was going.

To be sure, most accidents and injuries caused by distracted walking aren't fatal. But research shows that the number of emergency visits required for injuries related to distracted walking has increased significantly in recent years.

Safety warnings

The percentage of pedestrian deaths involving cellphone use has also increased, according to a study by Ohio State University researchers. The OSU data was included in a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association last year.

In short, with so many drivers and so many walkers distracted by devices, the risks have escalated. It's not difficult to imagine a worse-case scenario: a petextrian crossing the street against the light - only to encounter an equally distracted driver.

As a result, the National Safety Council is now issuing warnings about distracted walking and collecting data on it. But petextrians' vulnerability to cars is by no means the only concern. The most common injuries from distracted walking are from falls.

Risks to millennials

The research data shows that younger people are the ones most at risk from distracted walking. According to the Ohio State research, people between ages 21 and 25 are the most likely to suffer injuries caused by device usage while walking.

Obviously this stands to reason. Younger folks tend to be on their devices more than older folks. And millennials may be on there most of all.

But people of all ages are using devices frequently now. And this includes using t hem while walking.

Moving forward

Captain Kirk may have kept his communicator in his pocket most of the time while on a landing party. But this is 2016, and that doesn't always happen with our devices.

When a pedestrian accident caused by device distraction does happen, it can be difficult to know what to do. You might feel stuck. In that situation, it makes sense to get help from an experienced injury attorney who can help you move forward again.

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