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oldcougar
Oldcougar  (Level: 220.4 - Posts: 1935)
Tue, 16th Mar '10 3:46 AM

CELLPHONE USE DANGEROUS - WALKING OR DRIVING

Here's a copy of a health alert e-mail I receive

Dear Reader,

Any study that calls for a clown on a unicycle is okay by me.

Every year I read and report on hundreds of studies, and way too few of them involve clowns on unicycles. In fact, almost none of them do.

Almost.

My thanks to Western Washington University researchers who put a clown suit on a student, put the student on a unicycle, then asked him to ride around in Red Square, one of the main gathering areas on campus.

As the clown zigzagged around the square for a while, researchers approached more than 340 people who had walked through the square and asked, "Did you see anything unusual?"

Sixty percent of people walking in pairs said they saw the clown. About thirty percent of people who were walking alone saw the clown. Only eight percent of all cell phone users saw the clown.

Ira Hyman--lead researcher and a psychology professor, told the New York Times that the cell users were experiencing "inattention blindness." It's not an actual blindness, of course. But when you're looking right at something and you're too preoccupied to notice, it might as well not even be there.

The study points out that conversation isn't the problem. People walking through the square in pairs were engaged in conversations. Conversations on cell phones are entirely different.

A neuroscientist explained to the Times that during a phone conversation, a caller's brain engages visual functions to create imagery related to the conversation. This internal imagery can obscure real images. Even when those images are things you might usually notice.

Like clowns. On unicycles.

So it's not really a surprise that another recent study from the National Safety Council reveals a new reality of life on the road: nearly 30 percent of all car accidents occur while drivers talk or text on cell phones.

The NSC study recorded about 200,000 accidents linked to texting while driving. But a recent Ohio State University study took the research out of the car and onto the sidewalks. Their findings: Accidents that occurred while pedestrians were talking or texting on cell phones accounted for more than 1,000 ER visits in 2008 – a huge jump from the 250 ER visits recorded in 2006.

Last summer, a CNN report on texting-while-walking accidents sounded a little like a funniest home videos segment: a young girl fell down a manhole while texting, a man tripped over a traffic cone on one occasion and walked into a bicyclist on another, a woman walked into a tree branch, another woman walked into a pole, another stepped in something a dog left behind.

If you're shaking your head, thinking, "Those crazy kids," you're only partly right. The majority of pedestrian accidents caused by talking or texting on a cell involved people under the age of 30. But more than 25 percent of those injuries occurred in people between the ages of 41 and 60.

As cell texting becomes a more common way to communicate, people are inventing more interesting ways to hurt themselves. The CNN report ended with a video clip of a man who had figured a way to text while driving a motorcycle.

I believe these pioneers are going to open up an exciting new category for the annual Darwin Awards.




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