Sit down before you read this.
Seriously, before you hurt yourself or someone else.
That's the message in a series of public service announcements from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The “Digital Deadwalkers” campaign aims to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted walking, such as charging down sidewalks or across intersections while staring at smartphones.
While such zombie-like walkers aren't trying to eat brains, they can still cause a lot of damage in their single-minded quest to consume information on the go.
“They bump into people, they bump into things, they knock things over,” said Dr. Alan Hilibrand, chairman of the AAOS Communications Cabinet. “They can cause a car to swerve to avoid one person and hurt another. These are people who really aren't aware of their surroundings. They're oblivious to everyone else, so it's like they're dead-walking, sleepwalking.”
It's not just about being polite. Inattentive walking may have contributed to the deaths of 4,200 pedestrians and 70,000 injuries in traffic crashes in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The AAOS embarked on this latest campaign following a prolonged effort to warn people about the hazards of distracted driving. In response, most states have passed laws in recent years limiting cellphone use while driving.
But preoccupied walking may be, in many ways, a more challenging quandary to address, Hilibrand said. “It's a much tougher problem because it doesn't have the same kinds of solutions as distracted driving does,” he said.
According to a study commissioned last year by AAOS, 78% of U.S. adults said distracted walking is a “serious” issue. But nearly the same percentage blamed the problem on “other people.”