However, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, injuries involving distracted pedestrians using cell phones is surging. Distracting cell phone use may now be responsible for 10% of all pedestrian injuries. Distracted pedestrians are such a public safety problem that urban planners have begun to post signs at intersections and stairwells to “look up” or to admonish pedestrians to keep their “heads up and cell phones down.” Unfortunately, the very people most likely to benefit from such advice are unlikely to see the signs as indeed, their heads will be down. Some cities have resorted to pedestrian only corridors complete with lanes and signage for walkers with and without cell phones.
One garage in San Francisco has gone so far as to hire a guard-not to keep people out, but to prevent cars from hitting people too engrossed in their cell phones to notice that they are walking into a car emerging from the garage. Some have argued that the problem now requires a technologic solution. While I was teasing the student about an application that would help her safely walk and look at her cell phone at the same time, several companies are actually working on such applications.
One uses the phone’s GPS system to warn the viewer that they are walking into an intersection. Another, uses sensors in shoes to warn the walker that they have stepped into a street. Still, none of them will prevent students from bumping into each other in the hallway or tripping. So, while we have always told children not to cross the road without looking both ways and now have laws banning texting and driving, we need to do more. We will have to tell children (and adults) not to cross the street while texting.