I was surprised to read an article by Krystal D’Costa titled “We’ve Modified Our Behavior So We Can Walk and Talk” in the online August 5 Scientific American Mind and Brain. I don’t object to the title of the article. Undoubtedly we have modified our behavior as the result of cell and smartphone technology. However, I do object to some conclusions in the article. The basic conclusion she comes to is that we’ve adapted and there are no problems. As you shall read below, there are problems. Please let me disabuse you of her Panglossian conclusion.
There have been many, many posts on the healthy memory blog, regarding the risks of driving while either talking or texting on a cell phone. On May 27th, an article in the Washington Post by Ashley Halsey III summarized the result of a report from the National Safety Council. Between 2000 and 2011 more than 11,000 people were injured while walking and talking on their cell phones. Most of these people were women younger than 40. Nearly 80 percent of injuries were the results of falls, and 9% of those who suffered injuries simply walked into something with enough force to hurt themselves.
Although 42% of the injured were younger than 30, these injuries were not exclusively a young person’s affliction. 20% of the injuries happened to individuals 71 years or older.
The council reported that 26% of all traffic accidents were attributable to drivers’ talking on their cell phones, while 5% of drivers involved in accidents were writing or reading text messages. Please do not conclude from these statistics that texting is safer than talking on a cell phone. I believe that the correct conclusion is that fortunately there are many fewer people who are foolish enough to text while driving. It should be alarming that there are drivers foolish enough to do this.
Other research by Dr. Lee Hadlington of De Montfort University in Leicester, England and reported in the Huffington Post found that frequent users of mobile technology are more likely to experience cognitive failures, such as forgetting one’s wallet, missing an appointment, or bumping into someone in the street. This research involved 210 British mobile phone users between the ages of 18 and 65. Their average weekly Internet use was about 25 hours. The participants answered questions about the amount of time they spend using the internet and mobile devices, and about their behaviors related to perception, motor function, and memory. There was a significant correlation between the amount of time an individual spends using the internet or a mobile phone and their likelihood of experiencing cognitive failures in their rail lives. These failures included memory error, physical blunders and daydreaming while others are talking.
The statistic I wanted to find, but could not, was the number of walkers distracted by their cell phones who were hit by cars. I know there had to be some such cases. I have seen people walking, distracted with their cells phones, who step out into the street or cross the street neglecting to look for traffic. I do fear hitting one of these individuals who step in front of my car before I have time enough to stop.
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Tags: accidents, Ashley Halsey III, attentional deficits, Cell Phones, Dr.Lee Hadlington, driving, injuries, Internet, Krystal D'Costa, Scientific American Mind and Brain, smartphones, Walking, Washington Post