as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Caution: Walking And Cell Phones Don't Mix

You've probably seen them on the street: cell-phone chatting, music-loving pedestrians who sometimes act as if talking into a mouthpiece or slipping on a pair of headphones raises an impenetrable shield. But preoccupied pedestrians, especially those listening at high volume, risk more than hearing impairment. Their absorption can create a loss of "situation awareness" similar to that of distracted drivers. Inattention can have serious — even deadly — consequences on roads and railroad tracks.

Lisa Carolyn Moran, 20, a University of North Carolina exchange student from Scotland, was listening to an iPod while jogging when she stepped into the path of a bus in Chapel Hill last May. Joshua Phillips White, 16, was wearing earphones and walking on a train track in Cramerton, N.C., last November when a freight train hit him from behind, killing him; police said he apparently didn't hear the locomotive approaching. Alan Eaton-Chandler, 17, was killed under the same circumstances just last Tuesday when he was hit by an Amtrak train in Comstock Township, Mich. And Vicky Baker, 39, was talking on her cell phone when she was struck and killed by a train in Albertville, Ala., in December.

Listening on the run creates "a public health issue, and it's one that, frankly, is incredibly easy to overlook," says Brian Fligor, who directs the diagnostic audiology program at Children's Hospital Boston and teaches at Harvard Medical School. If pedestrians' ears are "occupied by some sound, whether it's another person's voice or a podcast," Fligor says, "it may isolate them from sounds they may need to hear, such as the train whistle, the ambulance siren, the car horn, the bike messenger's bell."

Emergency rooms around the country report treating pedestrians injured while texting or otherwise tuned in to phones and MP3 players, says Nicholas Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He's also a professor at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, in practice there and at Akron General Medical Center. "I've taken care of patients who've been hit [by a vehicle] or walked off a curb," he says.

NPR found at least 11 cases in 2008 alone in which pedestrians' use of portable electronics may have played a role in their deaths, based on news accounts and on information from the emergency physicians group. Most of those deaths involved trains. But while pedestrians' use of portable electronics has been linked to some injuries and deaths around the country, the scope of the problem is unclear. Aside from random news reports, there's little systematic documentation.

Concern over pedestrian use of portable electronics is significant enough to have prompted public safety campaigns in San Francisco and Texas and legislative efforts in at least two other states. Last year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency introduced a multimedia campaign in the wake of "some tragic accidents," spokesman Murray Bond says. A series of outdoor ads, radio and television spots aim to remind people that "headsets and handheld devices could be a distraction." One sign shows a headset-wearing woman crossing the street while texting — oblivious to the approaching transit vehicle. It asks, "Do you want Beethoven to be the last thing you hear?"

-excerpt from NPR


John Tynan said...

What a wonderful response to this story. Striking and funny, but cautionary too. I'm making this a wallpaper for my iphone right now. Thanks!

Alessandra Olanow said...

thanks john for your support!

Francesco said...

hah! nicely done today!