Thursday, July 23, 2009

Heads Up: You CAN"T walk and text at the same time!

This week the media have focussed on the dangers of multi-tasking while driving. A resurgence of some old data shows that the risk of an accident while talking on a cell phone is far greater even if one is using a "hands-free" system. In my experience, hands free is rarely so--either because the earpiece needs adjusting or because hands are required for dialing. Recent work has shown that using a cell phone increases the poor coordination and concentration necessary for driving to the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit!

A 2009 study in the professional journal Pediatrics highlights another danger of cell phone use among young people worth considering. It really is no surprise that crossing the street while talking or texting has its own risks. While the study was done in kids, I think the lessons apply to all of us who have a hard time clamping off the technological umbilical cord.

In this study middle schoolers were tested in an ingenious interactive virtual environment. The kids who were on the phone were less likely to look both ways before crossing the street. They were more likely to be hit by a car or have a close call when crossing.

Since phone use has become second nature for so many of us, we need reminders that we should adjust our bad habits. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Crossing guards in our communities should warn kids about crossing and cell phone use.
  • Tell your kids to remind you while in the car together that you should get off the phone or let them take the calls!(Kids love to reprimand their parents)
  • Put a sticky reminder on your child's dashboard.
  • Remind your spouse to set a good example.
  • Ask your taxi driver to hang up if he is driving you.

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