When you think of injuries sustained by people walking while distracted by their cellphones, you are likely to remember that American mall patron who stumbled into the public fountain while engrossed in their phone, or this tourist, who toppled over the end of an Australian pier while checking her Facebook page.
Or perhaps you will think of the growing number of people who are injured after wandering into traffic while “wexting” – the cumbersome moniker given to those people who walk and text at the same time.
But here’s a new danger we must now associate with such anti-social behaviour: Being stabbed in the heart.
According to Toronto police, a 33-year-old man was attacked shortly after midnight on Wednesday after bumping shoulders with another man while texting on his phone.
Police allege the victim inadvertently bumped shoulders with another man walking in the busy downtown Yonge and Dundas area, which was taken as a perceived slight. The man and his friend allegedly attacked the texter and the victim was eventually stabbed in the heart.
He was taken to hospital in critical condition and a suspect has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. Police are seeking information about the other man involved in the conflict.
When someone gets stabbed in the heart for simply bumping a man while texting on his cellphone, it is not and never fair to blame the victim.
Extenuating circumstances are clearly on parade. It says more about the dangers of walking in downtown Toronto after midnight than it does the dangers of walking down a busy street with your face pressed into a tiny screen.
With that said, isn't there part of you that heard what allegedly prompted the conflict and thought, "God, I hate when that happens to me."
Because knife-wielding agro-jackasses aside, there are few things more annoying in today's society than those who meander along shared sidewalks and hallways (or streets and highways) while being wantonly and openly distracted by their pocket electronic devices.
It has become more common every day. And studies suggest that distracted pedestrians are increasingly likely to be injured on city streets, to the point where more people are injured texting while walking than texting while driving – a public threat of its own, which has been identified as the fastest-growing cause of vehicular accidents.
That’s right: A University of Buffalo study has found that more people are injured, per mile, walking while distracted than driving while distracted (though presumably the extent of the injuries are far less serious). Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine, says that while pedestrian injuries were once most common among children, the elderly and the intoxicated, they are more and more frequently found among healthy gadget using-aged people.
The result of all this distracted walking? Signs have been posted in cities across North America reminding pedestrians to wait until later to update their Facebook status, or to put down their phones entirely. A sidewalk in Washington, D.C. was temporarily separated, for a behavioural study, into two lanes: one for people who weren't using their cellphones and one for people who were.
And then there are the laws. There have been several of new laws enacted in order to give police the ability to punish folks who can’t put their phones down while on public streets.
Rexburg, Idaho, instituted a $50 fine against pedestrians determined to be "dangerous texters" – specifically those who veer into traffic while tinkering with the phones.
In 2012, the town of Fort Lee, N.J., began issuing $85 tickets for the same thing, after a series of distracted pedestrian deaths. Taiwan is considering a similar law as well.
Toronto police, and other local agencies, have launched several blitzes in recent years against distracted pedestrians, specifically those who endanger themselves and others through their shameless disinterest in staying alive.
The University of Buffalo study – the one saying that distracted walking is as bad as distracted driving – isn’t the only research done on the topic. Stony Brook University researchers found that texting, or talking on the phone, while walking can throw you off course and affect your ability to navigate through traffic. And an Ohio State University study found that emergency room visits for people injured while being distracted by their phone tripled between 2004 and 2010.
But this is perhaps the best indicator. A Japanese tech company and Aichi University of Technology recently developed a simulator that depicted what would happen if 1,500 pedestrians attempted to cross Tokyo’s famed Shibuya Crossing all at once, while everyone was distracted by their phones. Considering the size of Shibuya Crossing, the scenario is not out of the realm of possibility. But based on the simulation, it would only happen once. The result was anarchy.
Though it doesn’t appear anyone was stabbed in the heart.
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