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Monday
Jul302012

Distracted Walking: Handhelds Send More and More to Emergency Room

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One woman walked off a pier while texting.  Another strolled into a water fountain. Americans continue to flirt with death as their love affair with smartphones and other electronic devices flourishes, a government agency says.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 1,150 people -- a number that has quadrupled in the last seven years -- were treated in emergency rooms in the United States last year after accidents with handhelds.

“I think people aren’t quite aware of how dangerous distracted walking can be,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, told ABC News Monday. “Keeping your head down while walking and not looking ahead of you can lead to a significant incident of injuries.”

Glatter said that he’d treated a number of patients for injuries ranging from facial fractures and eye injuries to blunt head trauma, nasal fractures, sprained ankles and foot injuries.

“I see them frequently,” he said. “In a typical week, we maybe see anywhere between five to 10 of these injuries.”

Some states, including Delaware, Utah, Arkansas and Illinois, have tried to pass distracted walking bills, but all have failed.

This summer in Fort Lee, N.J., police officers started handing out $85 tickets to residents caught jaywalking and texting.

Last year, 74 pedestrians were struck and two people were killed in Fort Lee, a city of 35,000 just across the Hudson River from New York City, officials there said.

And in Philadelphia, the city pressed on with plans for a new safety campaign after an April Fool’s joke -- in which officials taped off an “e-lane” so that distracted pedestrians could walk freely down the sidewalk -- was taken seriously.

“We had people who, once they realized we were going to take the e-lane away, got mad because they thought it was really helpful to not have people get in their way while they were walking and texting,” said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and public utilities.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio