Avoid­ing a dig­i­tal zom­bie apoc­a­lypse

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

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 sin­gle­minded 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 dead­walk­ing, 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.”

The PSAs warn smart­phone users about the dan­gers of “dead­walk­ing.”

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