Texting and walking

Pedestrians on their phones while walking about Athens, Ga on June 29, 2016. 

With the release of the popular smartphone game “Pokémon Go,” nostalgic, video game lovers can be found with their heads bent down over their phone screens, chasing virtual Pokémon creatures — almost anywhere.

This includes walking into sometimes dangerous situations or injuring oneself in the process of capturing a Pikachu.

The National Safety Council, one of the largest nonprofit safety advocacy organizations in the United States, published a statement July 12 — six days after the game released — asking pedestrians to use caution while playing the game.

“Reports of close calls associated with playing ‘Pokémon Go’ already are rolling in,” the statement said. “The Council urges gamers to consider safety over their scores before a life is lost. No race to ‘capture’ a cartoon monster is worth a life.”

In the release, the National Safety Council said distracted walking is a “well documented threat to safety.”

More than 11,000 injuries were caused in the last decade by distracting walking, according to a University of Maryland study published in the council’s publication “Injury Facts 2015.” The National Safety Council included cell phone distracted walking as a cause of injury for the first time in 2015.

According to the “This Device Kills” brochure from the University of Georgia Police Department and Crime Unit, a 2012 Ohio State University study found the number of injuries resulting from texting and walking exceeded the injury rate for texting and driving nationally.

Texting pedestrians, or ‘petextrians,’ between the ages of 16 and 25 are most likely to be injured, according to the same Ohio State study.

You definitely see a lot of people with their faces glued to their phone screens just step right out into the street.

-Jason Perry, program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability 

Bob Taylor, a media representative for the University of Georgia Police Department, said the department asks students and other campus community members to remain aware of their surroundings while traveling around UGA.

“[UGA’s] campus regularly has a high volume of vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic,” he said in an email to The Red & Black. “Any activity that lessens an individual’s awareness of their surroundings in such a busy area, regardless of their modes of travel, has the potential to increase the risk of accidents and injury.”

In Fall 2015, the UGA Office of Sustainability spearheaded a campaign to increase transportation safety, with a focus on crosswalks, called the “Stop for a Cookie Campaign.”

The campaign encouraged students walking to stop and look both ways before crossing the street and bikers to yield to pedestrians. All those who stopped, received a free cookie.

Jason Perry, a program coordinator for the office, said although the campaign was not necessarily designed to focus on ‘petextrians,’ he did observe many while standing at the crosswalks near the Tate Student Center on Sanford Drive.

“You definitely see a lot of people with their faces glued to their phone screens just step right out into the street,” he said. “I think they are relying on their ears to tell if something big is coming at them.”

Perry said, although he doesn’t have any concrete information on whether texting and walking causes any accidents at UGA, he said it creates the opportunity for many close calls.

Elizabeth Bogue, a senior psychology major from Atlanta, said she saw her own opportunity for a close call become a reality.

On the first day of her freshman year at UGA, when she was texting high school friends while walking, Bogue fell in front of Snelling Dining Commons during a crazy, class change period.

“Right as I was texting the phrase ‘best day ever!’ I tripped and fell on all fours,” Bogue said. “Not only that, but my backpack pulled me over to the side, and I cracked my head against the corner of the sidewalk.”

Bogue said she suffered scraped knees and a black eye from her texting and walking accident.

“Because I’m an idiot, I had to go through my first week and a half of college with a black eye,” she said. “Everyone [thought] I’d been beat up.”

Despite her accident, Bogue said she still texts and walks, even though she also said “it’s certainly better not to.”

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