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Health & Balance

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Cell Phone 'Distracted Walking' Can Be Dangerous

Talking, texting users aren't looking out for dangers, study finds

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Randy Dotinga

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- Pedestrians are becoming more likely to be injured while using their cellphones and an estimated 1,500 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2010 as a result, a new study finds.

It's impossible to know how many of the injuries could have been avoided if pedestrians weren't using their cellphones. The study also doesn't determine whether the injuries are on the rise simply because more people are using cellphones.

Whatever the case, study author Jack Nasar said the findings show that cellphone use isn't just a danger to drivers. It's also a hazard to those who are only strolling.

"Stop walking when you're going to take a cellphone call or text. Don't do two things at once," advised Nasar, a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University who studies cellphones and distraction.

Nasar and colleagues previously reported that pedestrians on public streets are more likely to have close calls with cars if they are using their cellphones. In the new study, the researchers sought to understand the risk on a national level by examining a federal database of emergency room visits from 2004 to 2010.

The investigators found that the estimated number of pedestrian injuries linked to cellphones -- including those that had nothing to do with cars, such as walking into something -- varied from as low as 256 to as high as 597 between 2004 and 2007. The numbers then jumped to 1,055 in 2008, 1,113 in 2009 and 1,506 in 2010.

Deaths are not included in the study. It also doesn't break out injuries by seriousness; some injuries were minor.

The study gives details about some injuries that have been reported. In one case, a 21-year-old male suffered a sprained elbow and spinal sprain when he was hit by a car while on his phone. In another, a 28-year-old man walked into a pole and lacerated his brow. And a 14-year-old boy fell several feet off a bridge into a ditch, bruising his chest.

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