by Tyson Beazley
We've seen the pedestrian swarms of people heading down the street like zombies, texting as they walk.
If you've been in the right spot at the right time, you might have seen one of these "walkers" stumble off the sidewalk or worse yet, walk right out into traffic.
Fort Lee, New Jersey has recently addressed this growing issue. The age of smartphones has created dumb people. Following the third pedestrian fatality this year, police said they will begin issuing $85 jaywalking tickets to pedestrians who are caught texting while walking.
Two professors at Stony Brook University in New York conducted a study on walking and texting. They found people who text while they walk are 60 percent more likely to get into an accident than non-texters.
If distracted walking can cause accidents, what about distracted driving?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each day at least 15 people are killed and more than 1200 injured in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver.
Distraction can be separated into three categories:
• Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
• Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
• Cognitive: Taking your mind off what you're doing
The results of this study shouldn't come as a surprise to any parent who has driven "under the influence" of a screaming toddler. A 2007 news release from the University of Sidney said that drivers with passengers were almost 60 percent more likely to have a motor vehicle crash resulting in hospital attendance. With two or more passengers, the likelihood doubled.
You can't stop transporting your children, but you can plan ahead to reduce the possibilities of distractions. Try these suggestions:
Set the stage for a happy child. Try to drive when your child's full and well-rested. If you'll be on the road a while, plan rest and run stops.
Before you hit the road do a bathroom stop, get a drink of water and locate that favorite car toy. Keep the things you suspect your child might need nearby for easy access.
Be flexible. Will you be stuck in heavy traffic with a less than patient child? See if you can rearrange your schedule or route for a less chaotic trip.
Bring your emergency "kid box." Include toys, music, books and games that could entertain your child. Add a spare change of clothes, snacks, drinks and medication. If you get stuck in traffic, you can relax because you have what you need with you.
Talk on your cell phone in the car? Researchers at the same institute found that cell phone use while driving increased your risk of an accident fourfold. Will that change the way you use your phone?
A British study found that when subjects were asked to do memory tests, reasoning, and mental arithmetic, that cellphone use did affect driving skill. They compared it to drunk driving.
The famous science TV show "Mythbusters" checked this theory out in episode 33. For the test, the drivers went to Infineon Raceway near Sonoma. The test course had four parts:
Each part was graded by an instructor who was in the car with them. While neither drinking nor talking, both drivers passed the course, though one had a bit of trouble parallel parking.
During the cell phone distraction test, the both drivers failed. The first driver's attempt included offenses such as using her elbow to steer and failing over half of the obstacles.
For the second test, the driver's blood alcohol level was just below 0.08 (legal limit), with police officers on hand to do the breathalyzer.