Fatal Car Crashes Down, But Walking And Wired-In Crowd Not Getting Message

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Put down that smart phone and walk — that’s the advice from researchers who say distracted pedestrians are being injured and killed at an alarming rate.

Almost all of us do it at some time or another — check that text message, spin through that music playlist, or fire off that e-mail, as we’re walking somewhere.

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We laugh about it, but new statistics show it’s risky business, CBS 2’s Don Dahler reported.

Pedestrian deaths in this country have gone up 4.2 percent and injuries by 19 percent. Distracted walking sent more than 1,100 people to the emergency room.

The Internet is full of clips showing people bashing into walls, tripping down stairs, or falling into fountains. More serious was what happened to a main at a Philadelphia train station. He was distracted and fell on the tracks, but lucky for him no train was approaching at the time.

The problem is how the human brain works. Researchers say that we’re only capable of really fully focusing on one thing at a time, so it’s the world around us or that text message or video game in our hands. This is when our attention becomes very narrow and it turns an already busy world into that much more dangerous a place.

“It is a serious issue when you consider the latest data shows that fatalities for people who are driving cars is going down, but for pedestrians, it’s going up,” said Robert Sinclair of the Automobile Association of America.

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So some places, like Fort Lee, N.J., are dusting off old jaywalking laws to force pedestrians to take their safety seriously.

“People are texting on their cell phones and iPods and not paying attention,” Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli said.

Chief Ripoli ordered his officers to start handing out $54 tickets to people crossing the street while texting.

But in Manhattan it’s still legal, if not smart, to be a distracted walker.

Some cities have even painted signs saying “look up” on the asphalt at crosswalks, and London features padded lamp posts because distracted people walk into them on a regular basis.

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