Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The LA Times reports that the number of people who have landed in US emergency rooms thanks to injuries incurred while they were walking and texting, tweeting, playing video games, talking on the phone, or listening to music on headphones, has more than quadrupled in the past seven years with 1,152 people treated in 2011 for distracted walking, a number that is likely a gross underestimate since many doctors or nurses may not have asked whether the patient was using a mobile device at the time of the accident. "We are where we were with cellphone use in cars 10 years or so ago. We knew it was a problem, but we didn't have the data," says Jonathan Atkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. Philadelphia officials are drafting a safety campaign that will be aimed in part at pedestrians who are looking at their devices instead of where they're going. "One of the messages will certainly be 'pick your head up' — I want to say 'nitwit,' but I probably shouldn't call them names," says Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and public utilities. Psychological studies that show most people can't focus on two things at once. Rather, their attention shifts rapidly back and forth between tasks, and performance suffers. But like a lot of drivers who use cellphones behind the wheel, pedestrians often think they're in control and that it's all the other fools on their phones who aren't watching what they're doing. "People really need to be aware that they are impacting their safety by texting or talking on the cellphone" while walking, says Eric Lamberg, author of a study of young people walking and using their cell phones. "I think the risk is there.""
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