Like a bolt from the blue, I was struck to the ground by something hitting me hard on the top of my head. As I sat on the sidewalk, holding back tears and trying to figure out what just happened, I heard a honk. It was then that I realized that because I was engrossed in reading a book on my Kindle while I walked, I’d wandered into a nearby parking lot and had been conked on the head by the striped guard arm coming down at the exit.
That little incident was as humiliating as it was painful (and it really hurt!). But every time I tell that story, I’m surrounded by a chorus of “me toos!” Because let’s face it: Texting (or playing games or reading on your phone) while walking isn’t just for teens anymore. According to a new survey, nearly half of people confess to having a physical accident or injury due to improperly using their tech.
“I tripped over a garbage can and got a massive bruise on my hip because I was too busy looking at something on my phone,” says Lizzie B, who is part of the 43 percent of cellphone users who say they’ve walked into an object while looking at their phone. In fact, she was so prone to these types of mishaps that she says one of the last pieces of advice her dad gave her before he passed away was “Lizzie, look up.”
“I think he meant figuratively, but actually it’s pretty sound advice literally too! Now my phone stays in my bag when I walk around,” she says.
In addition to walking into something, 13 percent of people have walked into another person, while 27 percent have fallen off a curb or into a glass door or window.
It’s not just tripping while tech-ing that can get you into trouble, though. The study also found that 60 percent of people have dropped their phone on their face while using it lying down. “My phone slipped out of my hand while I was reading in bed one night,” Angie S. confesses. “I ended up with a huge bruise, and it hurt for days! I wanted to lie and say I got it at a boxing class or something cool, but no, I’m just an idiot,” she says with a laugh.
And that’s not even counting all the many hours of sleep lost to checking “just one more” email or site.
But while bruises, scrapes and hurt egos are the most common injuries, occasionally they can be quite serious, as Deb R. demonstrates. “I was looking up at some interesting architectural details and trying to take a picture of them with my iPhone when I tripped over the uneven sidewalk and broke my hand,” she says. “Six weeks in a splint, four weeks of therapy, and a hand still doesn’t bend completely… all because of the beautiful 1920s architecture on an old theater.” (Well, that and her phone.)
And who can forget the texting teen who fell into an open manhole while texting and walking in New York City? Not only did she get the scare of her life, but she lost her phone (and a shoe!) in the raw sewage.
“In our fast-moving world of smartphones and other gadgets and gizmos, we’re encouraging people to pay a little more attention to the potential risks around them so we can reduce avoidable accidents and get on with enjoying all the great things that modern life has to offer,” said Russell Atkinson, CEO of the National Accident Helpline, which funded the study.
Atkinson added that he hopes we all learn from these painful mistakes, but if this stat is any indication, then we’re all in big trouble: While only half of adults say they’ve had a tech-induced accident, nearly 90 percent of young adults aged 16 to 24 say they have. Time to stock up on Band-Aids and ice packs!