Okay, maybe we're scapegoating. But the online role-playing cellphone app exploded in popularity following its launch in Summer of 2016, climbing rapidly to 500+ million global downloads. Within weeks, the game had been blamed for everything from car accidents to child neglect, personal injuries to robberies, kidnappings and divorce.
Seeing the Signs
While this particular game is proving to be a passing fad, it also highlights a societal phenomenon that is causing injuries and driving increased insurance claims nationwide. We're talking about Distracted Walking, which the National Safety Council reports accounted for more than 11,000 injuries between 2000 and 2011. In fact, a 2013 Ohio State University study noted a six-year increase of 2.5% for fatalities in cell-phone related accidents involving pedestrians. Those accidents have an impact on the premiums that we all pay.
Also known to some as "dead-walking", Distracted Walking refers to individuals who move about in public while paying more attention to their digital devices than their surroundings. While much attention has been paid in recent decades to the hazards of distracted driving, most adults who live or work in urban areas will agree that disengaged pedestrians are a big problem. In fact, according to safety.com, the reported 5,000 annual injuries reported distracted walkers is likely a deflated statistic, due to stigma associated with informing the ER physician that you "walked into a street sign while flipping through Instagram photos." Cellphone-related ER visits in the U.S. had tripled from 2004 and 2010, according to the Ohio State University study, which also predicted that number would likely double again between 2010 and 2015.
What to Do
Just put it down. Whatever it is can usually wait until you get where you're going, and there is no text, post, tweet or feed that is more important than your safety. This is even more crucial for parents walking with their children, as kids can (and do!) change their minds and direction without notice.
Be vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times, even if you aren't using a device. Expect the unexpected, especially in high-traffic areas or crowded pedestrian intersections. Don't assume that the person looking at their phone will look up before entering the crosswalk.
Look beyond the data. There are now apps on the market – such as Type n Walk in the iOS App Store or Walking Text from Google Play – that use a device's camera to project a live image of the path ahead onto the screen. This lets users to view upcoming obstructions in their path, while still allowing them to maintain focus on the ever-important email, text or webpage they are viewing.
Teach your children. While the long-term effects of extended screen time may not be known for decades, the prominence of mobile media devices presents an excellent opportunity. Children can be taught to compartmentalize their device usage – planning where and when to use a tablet or phone, versus where and when to focus on their surroundings.
The bottom line is that common sense is the best defense against careless injuries – cellphone-related or otherwise. The more aware you are of what's happening around you, the more prepared you will be to react and respond when hazards arise.
To make sure you're covered for all physical and digital obstacles that pop up, contact Loveland Insurance for a home-owners and auto check-up today!