CITY, Mo. ó Because Jennifer Moretina is an urgent care
physician, she notices: Everywhere, distracted walking.
donít even realize the extent to which people do this unless
youíre looking for it," said Moretina.
course, to notice requires that we take our eyes off our
recent Saturday on the way to enjoy ice cream in Kansas Cityís
Zona Rosa district, Moretina simply observed. Perhaps the
distracted walking she saw this day was partly a function of
the popularity of the Pokemon Go craze.
couldnít all be, thought Moretina, who is medical director
of Liberty Hospital Urgent Care. When you consider the number
of low-hanging tree limbs, swinging doors and step-down curbs
out there, she and other area health practitioners suspect our
rapt attention to devices has been causing mishaps for some
at Zona Rosa who marched into Moretina, their faces glowing
off their smartphone screens, were but a mild concern.
"Sorry," theyíd say, and on they would go.
30-something pedestrian who sprawled flat onto a street
because she didnít see the curb? "She was lucky no cars
were coming," Moretina said.
woman got up and started walking with her cellphone out again,
just as distracted as before she fell."
how it usually goes. Most distracted walkers donít land in
the hospital, unlike so many distracted drivers. And even if
they do get their sprained ankles wrapped by Moretina in
urgent care, theyíre often too embarrassed to say how they
the number of casualties is elusive, the hazard has given rise
to a new word: "petextrian," or someone who texts
half-dozen U.S. states, lawmakers have proposed bills that
would levy fines against pedestrians or bicyclists using their
mobile devices while crossing streets, oblivious to the
traffic signals. None of the bills have yet passed.
just last year that the National Safety Council for the first
time included data on distracted walking in its annual Injury
Facts report. The council estimated that more than 11,100
injuries occurred between 2000 and 2011.
more than half of the walking injuries related to cellphone
use happened at home, and eight of every 10 were due to a
fall, the report concluded.
alarming is research linking a rise in pedestrian fatalities
to Americansí increased reliance on cellphones. One such
study by the Governors Highway Safety Association noted that
pedestrian deaths around the country have jumped 15 percent
since 2009, reversing steady declines between the mid-1970s
and early 2000s. (The association couldnít say for sure how
much of the increase in pedestrian deaths might be
responders with Johnson County Med-Act havenít any
statistics that would point to a trend. "A lot of times
these would be injuries not severe enough to call 911,"
said Mark Terry, Med-Actís deputy chief of operations.
anecdotally, does it happen? Have I noticed people (looking
down at their phones) instead of paying attention to their
surroundings?" asked Terry. "Yes, and thatís a
of accidents have surfaced elsewhere with the recent burst of
interest in Pokemon Go, where players use their smartphonesí
GPS capabilities to hunt virtual creatures:
San Diego, two men reportedly playing the game suffered
moderate injuries when they tumbled down a seaside cliff,
according to USA Today.
Associated Press reported on players sustaining cuts, wrecking
their skateboards, nursing bruises after tripping over
doorstops and twisting their ankles wandering at night.
gamer on the Pokemon Go Reddit site posted: "Not even 30
minutes after the release (July 6), I slipped and fell down a
ditch. Fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot Ö I
told all the doctors I was walking my dog, lol."
instances the game may be encouraging better health, some
Biegun, a digital design manager who organizes the KC Virtual
Reality Meetup Group, said he knows a player whose only
medical complaint related to Pokemon Go is having sore legs
ó the contest has compelled the person to go out walking.
legs are "a good problem to have rather than sitting on
the couch all day," said Biegun. "Itís like
texting or anything else: Moderation is important. Be smart.
Be aware. Donít be reckless."
that Jessica Salazar forgot for one foolish moment long before
Pokemon Goís release.
works in media relations for Overland Park Regional Medical
Center, part of the HCA Midwest Health group. When The Star
phoned her to ask if she knew patients who fell victim to
distracted walking, Salazar replied: "Yes. It happened to
said she was checking emails as she stepped toward the
entrance of Menorah Medical Center for a meeting earlier this
year. She tripped on a curb and, next thing she knew, she was
on hands and knees.
just bit it completely," she said. "I was trying to
do too many things at once."
feel just silly; she felt pain.
still has scrapes on a leg. And lingering numbness in a hand
requires she wear a wrist brace.
the way we live our lives anymore," said Jared White,
medical director at Overland Park Regionalís ER of Shawnee,
Kan. "Most of these injuries youíll see in the ankles,
sprains, some back injuries ó just for people taking that
one wrong step. It doesnít take much force."
news? You donít need Google to tell you how to be safe.
just say put that phone down," said physician Moretina,
"and keep your head up."