I'm almost always typing on my phone while I walk.
I’ve never seen much harm in it. I mean, it’s definitely not as bad as texting and driving. I'm not operating a large piece of machinery. I'm just moving my body through the world -- and believing that the worst accident I can have is running into a pole.
While you drive, you need to have all of your senses in focus. But texting and walking? If you can’t handle putting your left foot in front of your right while also tapping the surface of a touch screen, you probably bit off more than you could chew when you purchased an iPhone in the first place.
Texting while walking seems like second nature. I mean, phones in general have become extensions of ourselves; they're like additional appendages. I saw some absurd statistic the other day that claimed the average American spends nearly five hours a day buried in a phone screen.
Like, stop (look away from your phone) and think about that for a second.
Mind you, this is the average American we’re dealing with here, which means your parents and their parents were accounted for, too. If someone were to survey the average Millennial, I’m sure that number would double -- if not triple. Because of our iPhone dependency, you can see hordes of people on the street who are walking and texting.
And this is where calamity ensues.
See, it’s one thing if there were only a few people doing it. But when you start to notice that the majority of people are, you begin to fear for your own safety and the safety of others.
In fact, I've recently cut down on texting and walking. I’m worried I’m going to knock shoulders with the wrong dude and find myself in a situation I really don't want. Like a physical confrontation.
In a recent New York Times article, author Jane E. Brody writes that people who text while walking “veer off course by as much as 61 percent,” which is a really staggering number (no pun intended).
Brody notes that while the majority of distracted walkers fall between the ages of 18 and 34 (i.e., Millennials), it’s typically older people -- women who are 55 and older, specifically -- who end up in trouble.
According to a 2013 study in Accident Analysis & Prevention, visits to emergency rooms for injuries involving distracted pedestrians on cell phones more than doubled between 2004 and 2010 and continues to grow.
If you think “emergency room visits” sound extreme, think again. Among these visits to the hospital, victims reported cases of various back, head and neck injuries. One person even shattered a pelvis.
He shattered a pelvis. And we still aren’t taking this issue seriously.
One statistic Brody discussed that I found very interesting was the difference between how Millennials and people over 35 feel about the issue. Whereas 81 percent of people over the age of 35 believed that distracted walking was a serious problem, only 70 percent of Millennials agreed.
Brody believes this is because Millennials have an affinity for multitasking, which she describes as central to our world.
Frankly, I can’t really dispute her claims. While writing this article, I'm also watching a soccer match and eating breakfast (just kidding).
On a serious note, Millennials have grown used to doing multiple things at once. However, when it comes our phones, we need to start considering how the cons of multitasking outweigh the benefit of getting many things done at once.
Aside from bumping into people on the streets, we’re also f*cking up our own backs. In a separate study posted on Medical Daily, texting can put as much as 50 pounds of pressure on your spine.
According to author Chris Weller:
At 15 degrees [of neck angle], a person feels 27 pounds of pressure; at 30 degrees, it ups to 40 pounds; at 45 degrees, 49 pounds; and at 60 degrees, a person should feel roughly 60 pounds of force on the spine.
If you walk with your head buried in your phone at close to a 60-degree angle, the weight on your spine would be equivalent to what it would be if you carried a toddler on your shoulders.
What does this mean for us? Probably nothing. Let’s be real: If we’re going to continue to smoke cigarettes despite the large warning on the front of every pack, I doubt we’ll give up texting while walking just because it’s a safety hazard.
But we definitely should -- if not for our own spines (or the general awareness of our surroundings), but for the other people on the street who are trying to safely get to their destination. If you don't care about your own health, try to care about the wellness of the people around you.
Imagine if it was your parent -- or grandparent, God forbid -- who ended up in the hospital with that broken pelvis as a result of a distracted walker.
Do the right thing. Eyes on the sidewalk, people.