As increasingly advanced as our smartphones have become, they've also come with one unfortunate side effect. According to the Associated Press, the number of people walking into each other, manholes, on-coming cars and other objects has quadrupled over the past few years. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that an estimated 1,152 people were sent to the emergency room last year due to "distracted walking".
Some examples of the reported incidents include:
- A 24-year-old woman who walked into a telephone pole while texting;
- A 28-year-old man who was walking along a road when he fell into a ditch while talking on a cellphone
- A 12-year-old boy who was looking at a video game when he was clipped by a pickup truck as he crossed the street
- A 53-year-old woman who fell off a curb while texting and lacerated her face.
Over the years, officials have tried to reduce the number of incidents with PSA billboards and legislation, but it seems like people just can't get their heads out of their... phones. As hilarious as some of these incidents may be, distracted walking could actually become a serious problem as indicated by a 4.2 percent rise in pedestrian fatalities in 2010.
Unfortunately, most attempts at criminalizing things like texting while walking has been met with universal opposition and has left lawmakers reluctant to impose fines. Until people get better at multitasking or legislation pushes through, we may end up seeing more people walking into manholes or fountains in the near future.
Generally I would agree with the "natural selection" sentiment, until you're presented with an extreme albeit realistic situation where a distracted pedestrian mindlessly walks into moving traffic where a non-distracted driver swerves out of the way into some other traffic or perhaps another pedestrian, or causes some other horrific accident whilst the distracted pedestrian is ultimately fine and dandy.
I disagree with the legislation we've heard about so-far, but I would also err on the side of proactive measures rather than reactive measures, and I'd be pretty pissed if a loved one were the collateral damage in the above hypothetical situation. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly DISagree with issuing tickets just because someone is walking around looking at your phone. We're a technologically and socially-integrated society. You can't issue laws directly contradicting the general and accepted way of life and expect anything good to come of it.
I'm all for passing legislation that if you get hit by a car while using your cell phone (as a pedestrian or driver) you are automatically at fault, and charged with attempted suicide/manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
Until the day auto manufacturers build faraday cages / cell jammers into automobiles, or parents start actually parenting again, children will keep doing it. The least we can do is make the poor driver who already has his life ruined for running over someones kid, not also go bankrupt and to jail for 15 years because your kid was too stupid to look before crossing the road.