I text whilst I walk, tweet from the bus and have, admittedly uploaded blog posts from the Tesco biscuit aisle…it’s gone beyond an obsession. I’m starting to wonder if I’m addicted to my smart-phone. Two weeks ago whilst driving in Dublin, I noticed three pedestrians about to step into the road whilst staring down at their phones. They were on opposite sides of a junction leading onto the Samuel Beckett Bridge. Not one of them looked up to check for oncoming traffic, no one was looking for a green-man, and I’ve a strong hunch that at least one was playing angry birds! It made me wonder if it is actually possible to become addicted to a smart-phone and how we address the issue of responsible smart phone use. There are news reports this week of a woman who fell 60-feet down a cliff because she was texting. Luckily, Maria Pestrikoff in Kodiak, Alaska, lived to tell the tale. Maria is not the first to experience an unbelievable accident whilst distracted by a mobile phone, YouTube is, unfortunately, awash with texting pedestrians falling into fountains and nearly walking into bears – yes really! In Ireland it’s illegal to hold a mobile phone whilst driving in a public place. According to distraction.gov “Texting is the most alarming distraction because it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction simultaneously. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded. It’s extraordinarily dangerous.” We may be moving slower than a car whilst we walk and tweet, but it’s no less dangerous. In Fort Lee, New Jersey, pedestrians can now be fined for texting whilst walking. This follows a four month period in which there were twenty-three reported pedestrian accidents – three were fatal.
Today FM104’s Thomas held an on the street poll ‘could you live without your phone?’ – The replies were a resounding ‘No’…“No, I just checked in”; “No, I tweet several times a day”; “I use it to write my thesis, so probably not”. I’d also be hard pushed to give up my smart-phone but I would happily give up my phone rather than become an accident statistic or YouTube ‘hit’. Using a smart phone whilst walking affects your personal safety, your awareness of the traffic and people around you is an essential part of travelling safely – even when travelling by foot. Luckily, we don’t have to give up our phones to be safe, we just need to use them responsibly. So, in the words of the latest ad campaign from Ireland’s Road Safety Authority, “it won’t kill you to put it away”.
From Rebecca Dunne, Communications Executive PS. From this day forward I pledge to only use my phone when it is safe to do so; I will no longer text whilst walking or blog from Tesco but I will still tweet from the bus.