In the 1920's, so-called "experts" warned that too much listening to the radio can damage your hearing. "Experts" in the 1950's cautioned that sitting too close to the TV set could blind you. The 1960's - watch out, said "experts," that microwave oven could give you "radiation poisoning." In the 1990's - keeping that darned cell phone too close to your head could lead to a brain tumor, according to the "experts."
Today, in the 21st Century - loud cell phone conversations in a public space are just plain annoying. But using your text message function at the inappropriate time could be downright dangerous.
I swear, as I was driving down the Kennedy Expressway on the Northwest Side of Chicago the other morning, I saw some lady thumb-keying her Blackberry, while traveling at 60 miles per hour. Am I the only guy thinking this is just a bit stupid? And more than a little dangerous?
Try this folks - and you will see what I saw. Pick any busy city street, around the lunch hour. I chose Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile of Chicago. Notice how many folks are sending and receiving text messages while walking down the street.
Head down, immersed in the message, they stroll right into the middle of a busy intersection - against the light. The trip over a planter box. A fire hydrant. Another pedestrian!
Come on - I can't be the only one noticing this! Have you?
Chicago Physician Dr. James Adams, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, noted "We always see someone [who was] texting or calling, who would not have been in that accident had it not been for the phone," Adams said.
"The Lake Shore (Bike and Walking) Path is ground zero, and so is Michigan Avenue," Adams says. "We see people tripping off curbs, off sidewalks, into planting grates. People are moving, it's crowded and accidents happen."
Those accidents could become even more injurious when it's on the Lake Front Path, where both pedestrians and cyclists might be endangered. Adams discusses a possible scenario: "Someone is texting and walking a dog, the dog goes farther out on the leash and doesn't get yanked back because the person is distracted. Then the dog goes into the path of a moving bike."
According to Dr. Adams, "It's an emerging trend and one that has not anywhere near peaked."
Recently, in New York City, two pedestrians were killed by a passing car when they wandered into a busy intersection, heads down, PDA's in hand - perhaps checking email or texts. A teenager in Ohio recently was seriously injured while crossing an active train track, not noticing the train was approaching.
IL State Representative Ken Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat, concerned about ever-increasing numbers of pedestrians injured while using their wireless devices, has proposed IL House Bill 4520, which would fine violators $25, and charge them with a misdemeanor, for using a cell phone or text messaging while crossing streets - even if simply walking across them!
Is this too radical of an approach?
Not so, according to David Drucker of the Illinois Secretary of State Office. "The secretary headed a task force on driver safety, and this issue came up, and he was intrigued by the idea," said Drucker. "He's seen a couple of instances of [walking and texting] himself. Right now, though, he feels that it needs more study."
Read more @ our BlogChicagoHomes.com Blog Center, with a link to Louis R. Carlozo's story in last Tuesday's Chicago Tribune.
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