The dangers of walking and texting: there’s an app for that
The distraction of texting while walking has caused people to walk off a pier, fall into a mall fountain, fall down stairs, and run into poles. But now a safety organization is using technology to help people avoid the dangerous pratfalls, without even having to put down their smartphones.
The group Community Against Preventable Injuries is testing "geofencing" technology at some busy B.C. intersections, in an attempt to reduce the number of injuries suffered by people who are walking and texting, or “wexting.” When pedestrians enter the zone at select intersections in Vancouver and Victoria, they receive a banner ad that reads, "If you're texting while walking, have a word with yourself."
The pop-up ad is intended to make pedestrians look up from their phones and pay more attention while crossing the road.
The organization behind the technology reports that more than 2,700 pedestrians are injured in the B.C. each year, more than 40 per cent of which are due to distraction or ignoring traffic signals.
Experts say pedestrians continue to “wext” despite the dangers, because most believe they are smarter than others, and not distracted enough to be in danger.
"The majority of them (wexters) insist 'I'm coordinated enough, I'm able to juggle two cognitive tests at the same time," B.C. Injury Research and Prevention Unit director Ian Pike told CTV Vancouver. "Which of course the research suggests they cannot."
In England, a group tried to solve the problem with a less technological approach. In 2008, they wrapped some lamp posts with pads to lessen the blow when people do run into them. The city of Chongqing, China created separate lanes for wexters. A similar walking lane was also set up in Washington D.C. earlier this year.
Doctors in B.C. are seeing more cases of facial fractures, eye injuries, blunt head trauma, and foot injuries. A study published in the journal Injury Prevention found texters took 18 per cent longer to cross the street and were four times more likely to disobey traffic signals or walk without looking both ways.
The B.C. project will run through Oct. 31.
With files from CTV Vancouver's St. John Alexander.