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Home > Topics > Community Awareness
July 31, 2012
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Texting and walking, the latest stupid human trick

Like with seat belts, airbags and helmets, it's only matter of time before government intervenes

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years.

We humans are pretty funny. We're always so sure that whatever our behavior or action, somehow we are blessed with a knowledge base or skill set that is superior to everyone else's. Stupid human tricks, that's what other people do, right?

Do a quick search on the web, and hundreds if not thousands of video clips appear showing pedestrians being distracted by their cell phones or media players. Even commercials are using it as a punchline.

Seriously, this is an issue. More studies are showing that we really don't multitask at all; instead our brains tend to "microtask," devoting attention to a specific task for a brief period before diverting to the next one.

This might be fine if each task only lasts for a moment or its importance is low on the risk meter. But talking on a phone, texting or consuming media really changes that dynamic — each of these tasks take a significant amount of time and attention to perform.

That's fine if you're sitting still, but the risk profile changes dramatically if you're hurtling down the road at freeway speed.

The walking issue is amusing, but being run over by a car or train, not so much.

Of course, none of us would like to be regulated by government — aren't we smarter than that (rhetorical question)?

Like with seat belts, airbags and helmets, it's only a matter of time before government intervenes. We're just too fond of our stupid human tricks to believe it.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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