On a sultry midafternoon, Quana Robinson engaged in behavior she freely admits could harm her — checking her smartphone while walking.
“I find myself almost walking into a pole or tripping,” said Robinson, 31, fresh from returning a friend’s text while walking on Chester Avenue in downtown Cleveland.
The accountant for a company downtown said she has avoided injury so far. But thousands of cellphone users have not, new research from Ohio State University shows.
In 2010, hospital emergency rooms nationwide treated 1,500 cellphone-using pedestrians for injuries like gashed heads, dislocated shoulders and fractured ankles.
“People have been hit by buses, trucks and trains,” said OSU researcher Jack Nasar, co-author of the study on the fallout from distracted walking. “A fairly common thing is people just tripping and falling.”
Injuries to the cellphone-addicted have doubled since 2005. If trends continue, they will double again by 2015, Nasar says. That’s why he and others back efforts to get the word out: Pocket mobile devices while you’re walking.
“If you must walk and talk or text, act like a driver and pull over into a quiet area,” Consumer Reports advised in an article last August.
Nasar believes the reported numbers for the cellphone-injured represent just a portion of the actual mayhem.
Emergency-room doctors here said they have not a seen a rash of cellphone-related injuries. But they also believe, like Nasar, that the injured don’t confess the embarrassing cause.
People don’t want to admit they were texting when they tripped over a curb, said Dr. Charles Emerman, chairman of emergency medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center.
The researchers didn’t study what factors are driving the rise in injuries. But it’s not hard to imagine, said Nasar.
Cellphones have evolved into hand-held computers, linking us round-the-clock with careers and social calendars. They’re drawing more of our attention — even when we’re walking.
While nose-deep in the devices, we’re not walking straight.