We love to multi-task. And companies are responding with gadgets that allow us to do more things with less time. The biggest culprit for blurring the home-work divide: the Blackberry. But it’s not just professionals under the point-and-click spell; rather, kids are blurring the public-private divide with a constant stream of texts from friends.
Adults and kids have one thing in common, though; a resultant technological trance that makes them relatively oblivious to the tangible world. Our minds are busy engaging in virtual communication, but our bodies are thrashing about in the real world. The result: people ambling across streets without paying attention. Our eyes are all fixated on a screen. That means that they’re aimed downward. With our eyes turned downward and our feet (or vehicles) going forward, the potential for head-on collisions is apparent.
And now, Illinois lawmakers are taking note. As Chicago Tribune reported, Illinois General Assembly bill, HB 4520, was introduced by Rep. Ken Dunkin in January. He explained, “This legislation is not laughable. On the surface it’s like, ‘Oh wow, what is this?’ But it’s becoming more and more of a common problem with people haplessly crossing an intersection and almost killing themselves.”
In fact, text-related injuries are more prevalent than you might think. The chief of emergency medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, James Adams, confirms that it happens all the time right here in Chicago; he states, “We always see someone [who was] texting or calling, who would not have been in that accident had it not been for the phone.”
People are tripping over curbs, grates, and each other, tumbling to the ground. Apparently, we don’t consider the damage we can do by being an inattentive pedestrian. Perhaps it’s because we don’t need a license to walk. More likely, it’s because we don’t have the threat of rising insurance costs if we cause an accident. Newsflash: you’re still liable for your actions. And, although I haven’t heard about a text-walking lawsuit, it could certainly happen. With ever-evolving technology, we’re inventing new ways to injure ourselves; text-walking is a relatively recent development, but it’s everywhere. As Dr.Adams noted, “It’s an emerging trend and one that has not anywhere near peaked.”
In any case, if HB 4520 does pass, you’ll be slapped with a $25 fine and misdemeanor charge if you’re caught using a wireless device while crossing the street. Until then, avert your eyes from your favorite wireless device and try actually engaging with the world. Just think: multi-tasking is hardly productive if its leads to personal injury.