Searching YouTube for videos of distracted smartphone users embarrassing themselves due to their lack of attention is becoming less of an internet sensation and more of a scary reality. Physical injuries have been increasing over the last 10 years due to distracted users being unaware of their surroundings.
In a parking garage in San Francisco, Manny Fiori’s job is to protect distracted smartphone users from being involved in automobile accidents when they are too “busy” to watch out for themselves. Fiori’s job involves calling out orders and putting his arms out to prevent pedestrians from walking into oncoming traffic and to alert drivers that they are unaware of the danger before them. In this article, “Texting While Walking Isn’t Funny Anymore,” that was featured in The Wall Street Journal, an experiment was conducted in which watching the morning rush from Fiori’s position was conducted. In one hour, there were a total of 70 people who did not look up from their phones in which 5 of those people would have been involved in accident, had Fiori not been there.
Author of the article, Geoffrey Fowler, collected information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and found that emergency room visits that involved pedestrians who were distracted by cell phones were up 124% in 2014 from 2010. Those being treated at emergency rooms are receiving treatment for strained muscles, dislocated joints and broken bones, prompting Fowler to come to the conclusion that: “It’s a public safety conundrum, and a symptom of an addiction. At the very least, it’s a design failure in smartphones that have mastered how-but not when-to get our attention.” As a result, it is time to think that like car industries, it is time for phone companies to develop ways to alert distracted users when danger is imminent.
As proof to support this notion, two separate experiments were conducted in which someone dressed up as Chewbacca or a clown riding a unicycle walked around during a busy commute. Another person then interrupted those using their phones to ask if they had seen the spectacles. The result in both experiments, as predicted, was that most people using their phones did not see Chewbacca or the clown compared to those who were not using their phones.
However, there is work being done to combat the distraction of smartphones to keep people from veering off of their course or slowing down. When teaching children how to cross the street, they are also now being taught to put their phones away in hopes to prevent future accidents. Many cities and schools are putting up signs to remind pedestrians and drivers to look up and be aware, however, distracted users most likely do not notice these warnings.
Like using seatbelts and having air bags to prevent injuries, researchers are working to develop ways to work against the instant gratification all smartphone users feel the need to exhibit towards the notifications they receive from their phones. While Smartwatches are a stepping stone toward making quick phone checks easier, devices are being created to save lives of the distracted. There are currently devices that vibrate when you receive only notifications that you express that you care about and jewelry that changes color to notify the user of important updates. There is also work being done at Rutgers University to create an app that uses GPS to determine when a smartphone user is entering an intersection in which case, the phone will momentarily lock and a notification will flash to alert the user to look up.
Fiori’s job proves that smartphones are making society victims to themselves with the need to create a job position to protect people that are distracted by their phones. While smartphones add much to our lives, they are also taking much away from us. Don’t become a victim as a result of your phone. Go for a walk, take a break from your phone and look up at the world around you!
Source: Wall Street Journal, Texting While Talking Isn’t Funny Anymore http://www.wsj.com/articles/texting-while-walking-isnt-funny-anymore-1455734501?mod=djemptech_t