You’ve no doubt heard the expression "She can’t walk and chew gum at the same time". It may seem to be just another joke insulting someone’s intelligence, but walking and using cell phones, iPods, etc. can be risky. We constantly hear about driver distractions, but what about pedestrian distractions? Pedestrians have walked into telephone poles while texting, tripped and fell while engaging in a phone conversation, and walked in front a moving vehicle while listening to music.
Preoccupied pedestrians, especially those listening to music at a high volume, risk more than hearing impairment. Their absorption can create a loss of "situation awareness" similar to that of distracted drivers. Most times, the mishaps for a distracted walker are minor, but the injuries can sometimes be serious, even fatal.
Over the last several years, there has been an increased concern over pedestrian use of portable electronics. In 2007, a state senator in New York proposed banning pedestrians from using cell phones, headphones or other portable electronics while crossing streets, recommending a $100 fine for offenders. Legislation denied the bill. Illinois made the same attempt in 2008 and failed. Legislation pending in Oregon would restrict bicyclists from using mobile phones and music players, and a Virginia bill would keep such riders from using a “hand-held communication device.”
Pedestrians, like drivers, have long been distracted by multi-tasking, such as snacking or reading on the go. We are becoming a society where many people see a single task as boring or unproductive.
Sometimes, pedestrians using their phones do not notice objects or people that are right in front of them – the term commonly applied to such preoccupation is “inattention blindness,” meaning a person can be looking at an object but fail to register it or process what it is.
Many states are receiving much criticism. A woman who exercises in Central Park said she understood what all the fuss was about – “They’re zigging, they’re zagging, and they don’t know what’s around them. It can definitely be dangerous.” But, she is opposed to a ban of such devices stating “I think it’s an infringement on personal rights. “At some point, we need to take responsibility for our own stupidity.”
We were taught as toddlers to stop, look, listen, before crossing the street. These tasks are harder to accomplish when engaged in a phone conversation, texting, or listening to music. But, do we need laws to tell us this is not safe behavior? At some point don’t we need to simply rely on our own good judgment? We can encourage people to put safety first, but we can’t place laws on common sense. What do you think?
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.