It wasn't the bumps and bruises that surprised emergency room physicians when they started looking into the dangers of texting. It was the fatalities. "It's like walking blind," says Linda Lawrence, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, who has heard of people stepping into moving traffic, BlackBerry in hand.
Unlike speaking on a cellphone, texting requires users to divert their eyes, Lawrence says. With data from the Pew Research Center showing that 74 percent of 18 to 29 year olds text, Lawrence suggests that when parents buy phones for their kids, they should sit down and discuss the risks.
But, she adds, the growing number of adult users of iPhones, BlackBerrys and other handheld devices has made texting-on-the-go a risk for people of all ages.
The ACEP, which aims to educate the public on injury prevention, makes the following recommendations:
¢ Don't text while you're engaged in physical activities that require sustained attention, such as biking, inline skating and playing sports.
¢ Never text while driving or motorcycling, and use caution even when using headsets.
¢ Keep your phone or BlackBerry accessible, so you don't have to rummage for it through your backpack or clothing.
¢ Turn off the device, or ignore the call or message, whenever responding might be dangerous.
¢ And remember that texting can divert you from ensuring your own safety, so avoid sending messages when you are out alone at night or in a crowded area where you could be the victim of a pickpocket.