Trouble's afoot on Penn campus
Curious story out of the University of Pennsylvania. Penn students are reportedly banging into things while lost in their handheld devices.
"We're seeing people totally unaware of their surroundings, walking around streets with ear buds . . . their face totally in a different zone," Maureen Rush, VP of public safety at the Ivy League school, told CBS Philly. "Our hospital, University of Pennsylvania, has seen many a broken ankle because of people not realizing they're walking off the curb."
Disclosure: I've taught at Penn for the last six years, and these are pretty sharp kids, though some tend to be focused a little far ahead of field. Nonetheless, they're in the midst of a "Share the Road" week that sharpens awareness of what happens when drivers, bikers, and pedestrians are on the phone.
You might think this is one of those soft trend pieces the media can cook up on a slow day, but an accompanying article notes a fresh study from Safe Kids Worldwide that provides some statistical comfort, or discomfort.
The report, "Teens and Distraction: An In-Depth Look at Teens' Walking Behaviors," recorded more than 34,000 teens crossing the street in a school zone. It shows 39 percent of distracted walkers are texting, and another 39 percent are wearing headphones. The remaining students are either talking on the phone (20 percent) or playing on a handheld device (2 percent). So if cellphones are a danger to those using them as they walk, imagine when they're used behind the wheel.
I had my handy semiretired urban planner friend, Rick Shnitzler, lurk on a street corner in Logan Square recently and update how many drivers were holding a phone as they drove along 19th and 21st Streets near Hamilton Street. He basically used the methodology he done in the past for a column I wrote as the state of Pennsylvania's no-texting law actually gutted the city police's ability to stop drivers who used handheld phones.
Four times over two days, Shnitzler observed 800 cars for me. The results were pretty much the same as in 2011: about one in 10 drivers, which surprised me. I thought the number would be twice as high.
The difference, he said, is not the numbers. It's the cellphones. "They're not phones anymore, they're handheld data devices. It's worse. Your eyes are down longer."
It should be noted that the biggest hazard he saw when conducting his survey was a man driving a van with a newspaper spread across his lap.
The most impressive sight?
"I watched with amazement as a 3-year-old trailing behind his mom's grown-up bike in a kiddie-trailer pressed his preschool fingers into a grown-up size handheld. He was totally oblivious to the passing scenery, or personal dangers from big dogs and bigger Dodge Rams." That kid's clearly bound for Penn.