Maureen Pratt

The latest and perhaps most frustrating danger to people in cars and on foot might not be slick roads or runaway vehicles. According to recent studies, it just might be cellphone-wielding pedestrians, distracted by the conversation or text at hand and oblivious to their surroundings, people and other potential obstacles in their way.

According to a study published in the August 2013 issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention, injuries involving pedestrians using cellphones are on the rise. The article said that in 2010, cellphone-related injuries among pedestrians “exceeded those for drivers.”

“Research shows that pedestrians, similar to drivers, experience reduced situation awareness, distracted attention and unsafe behavior when talking or texting on their mobile phones,” the study said.

Some of these accidents occur because the person texting or chatting is not aware of the sidewalk or road and walks off of it into a ditch or a busy street. Other accidents happen when cellphone users aren’t aware of other walkers, cyclists or vehicles, knocking, running or walking into them and causing injury to themselves or others.

The use of cellphones has skyrocketed in recent years. More sophisticated smartphones have brought voice, text and Internet capabilities to our itchy fingertips almost anywhere in the world. Thus, the amount of time we spend glued to those small screens has increased.

I have to wonder whether we are getting into the habit, perhaps a bad one, of frequently reaching for the cellphone the way some people reach for candy or cigarettes?

The author of one article about the rise of habitual cellphone use admitted that during dinner with friends, she “watched [her] right hand sneaking away from [her] side to grab” her cellphone.

“I hadn’t told my hand to reach out for the phone,” wrote Elizabeth Cohen, senior medical correspondent for CNN Health in a 2011 article. “It seemed to be doing it all on its own.”

The city of Chongqing in China recently announced it will provide cellphone users with a separate sidewalk “lane” so that they run less of a risk of mishap.

Before other cities step up and do the same, I have to ask the obvious question: Wouldn’t it be easier, less expensive and human if people were a little more careful about walking and talking, traversing and texting?

Besides avoiding accidents, better and unencumbered awareness of one’s world has other benefits. Trees, birds, other people, the sky, the horizon, God’s grand world — all are a feast for the frazzled soul. Miss them and we truly miss out.