To the walking texters on the sidewalk

Chase Bonar
 from Winter Springs, FL
Published: February 1, 2013

Folks, I have a promise to make you. From this day forward I pronounce myself the Ambassador for Safe Walking (ASW) because someone has to say this stuff. As the ASW for PhoneDog, I promise to do the following: put walking before browsing the interwebs, put my surroundings before burst shots and screen captures, and acknowledge all intersections as death traps, even in the face of a Facebook update or incoming Tweet. Why? Because when two objects in motion approach one another injury can and will result.

If you have ever stumbled while walking due to the distraction device in your hand, this message is for you.

Please look up. Welcome to Earth. Stay awhile.

While on Earth, please pay attention to the inanimate objects (like benches and poles) in front of you, the animate objects (like cars and people) passing by, and the pot holes, puddles and trees in your path. Taking a picture? Get out of the way.

All sarcasm aside, I think we can all agree that our devices are dangerous when we're on the move. From a pyschological standpoint, it is less than ideal to focus on two things at once. If only we could multitask as well as our devices. Do you remember what the screen protector says on AT&T smartphones? It can wait. Though this is primarily aimed at people who text and drive, I think it's applicable to everyone on the move. For the same reasons I avoid calls and texts when my car is in motion, I watch where I'm going when I'm walking. It pains me to say it, but there are images of padded street signs and telephone poles on the Internet. This is real-life we're talking about. Will we see laws and mandates disallowing distracted walking in the near future? Does it really need to come to this? Come on. We are better than that. I refuse to drive in the texting lane, or walk in the e-lane on the sidewalk.

There are many reasons to stay connected. Whether we're staring at the Retina Display on our favorite iDevice or taking a picture using TimeShift, our digital lives tend to get the best of us. As we get closer to an age where wearable tech is commonplace, we are more distracted than ever. And with that comes the potential for more distractions while we are on the move. With wearable tech right around the corner, you could say we are getting closer to giving our full and undivided attention to our surroundings. Complementary devices like the HTC Mini are aimed at taking the "work" out of using our smartphones. But we're going to have to wait and see how they well they work out in practice. We may have less of a reason to be distracted, but even the notifications and emails pushed to our Pebble smartwatches might not be enough to get us to look up when we need to. The question remains: will we be able to focus on a secondary device?

The truth is, the people who write laws and demand we follow them are seriously thinking about passing legislation to protect us from ourselves. In fact, they're slowly becoming a reality. If you live in Illinois, you can get fined $25.00 for using your phone while crossing the road. I don't disagree with the law because crossing the road is just one of many situations that demand attention, I just hate being told what to do. A study by the Ohio State University said that over 1,000 pedestrians visited the hospital due to serious injury in 2008. But who are we kidding? There are many more devices in the wild today, and even more people in the world than there were five years ago, so that is probably a low estimate.

Knowing this, there are a few things we can do about distractions on and off the sidewalk. We should not allow friends to text while inattentive to the oven timer. Your cookies may depend on it. When we call our parents, don't let them fool you into thinking they can fill out their tax return and discuss grades at the same time. Their adjusted gross income (and your college education) might depend on it. Lastly, wear an undershirt for those times when you see a coffee in one hand and a smartphone in the other. There not be any way around it.

So, I'm just interested in gauging your thoughts on the state of distractions. Is it controllable? Or are we chickens with our heads cut-off? Do you have a crazy story about someone who wasn't paying attention and walked into you? Have you ever seen someone run into something because they weren't paying attention to where they were going? Do you think texting lanes on sidewalks are fair, and that legislation is the way to solve the State of Distraction? Let me know how you feel about distractions and anyone who has ever ruined your day by not paying attention to where they were headed in the comments below!

Products mentioned