August 01, 2008
Don't text and skate

I somehow pictured John weeping softly into his morning coffee as he read this story.

The road rash on his left elbow was the mark of multi-tasking gone awry. With a phone in hand and a skateboard underfoot, 15-year-old Kenny Kitchen said he didn't see the bump in the sidewalk that tipped him down the stairs earlier this week. He was text messaging.

He shrugs off the scrape on his elbow.

"It was nothing," he said Wednesday afternoon, taking a break from skateboarding with three buddies in downtown Houston.

Not enough to make him swear off text messaging while on his board, Kenny says he's taken a new precaution: "Now I don't look down at the phone."

Look on the bright side. Some day he'll be doing that while he's driving an SUV. Maybe between then and now, he'll figure out - likely the hard way - that that isn't such a hot idea.

Emergency doctors warn that pedestrians, bicyclists -- and sometimes skateboarders -- can face serious injury when text messaging distracts them from their primary purpose.

The American College of Emergency Physicians issued an alert this week saying that injuries related to text messaging, particularly among young people, are on the rise.

In Houston's emergency rooms, doctors say they are seeing more sprains, scrapes and bruises from text-distracted stumblings than ever before. Most of the injuries are minor.

"They're bumps and bruises from where you walked off the curb you would have seen if you were watching," said Dr. James McCarthy, medical director for the emergency department at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. "We had one person trip over their dog."

I confess, I have used my BlackBerry while walking - usually either walking the dog, or heading to or from my car in the parking lot at work. I don't think that puts me in any particular peril, mostly because these are pretty familiar surroundings and I know when I'm approaching a curb or crossing. But yeah, there's a risk I'll walk into something and look like an idiot. I figure it still makes me less of a menace than if I were operating something with wheels on it. At least I'm unlikley to injure anyone other than myself.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 01, 2008 to Society and cultcha
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