The number of people who have landed in U.S. emergency rooms thanks to injuries incurred while they were walking and texting, tweeting, playing video games, talking on the phone, or listening to music on headphones, has more than quadrupled in the past seven years, the Associated Press reports.
In 2011 alone, 1,152 people were treated for distracted walking, according to data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and that number is likely a gross underestimate since many doctors or nurses may not have asked whether the patient was using a mobile device at the time of the accident.
"We are where we were with cellphone use in cars 10 years or so ago. We knew it was a problem, but we didn't have the data," Jonathan Atkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Assn., told the Associated Press.
The trouble is, most of us think that we can walk and text just fine. After all what is the worst that can happen? We might annoy the person behind us because we slowed down a bit, or worst case scenario, we gently bump into someone? That's a risk many of us are willing to take for the privilege of telling our dinner date we are "here!" three minutes before actually walking in the door.
But in fact, the worst-case scenario is much more dire. Researchers at the University of Maryland identified 116 cases in which pedestrians were killed or seriously injured while wearing headphones. Two-thirds of those injuries involved men under the age of 30, and half of them involved trains.
And data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that while traffic deaths went down in 2010 from the year before, pedestrian fatalities rose by 4.2% and injuries by 19%.
So maybe it's time to stop laughing at the viral videos and time to place our phones firmly in our bags and pockets while we walk the streets.
Cathy Cruz Marrero, the woman who tumbled into a fountain while texting and walking in a mall in Pennsylvania, put it this way: "I could have been walking into a bus, a car, a ditch. Anything. Texting and walking -- take it from me -- is dangerous."