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Collisions, Injuries, Other ‘Distracted Walking’ Incidents Soar 400 Percent

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(credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The number of pedestrians hospitalized for injuries suffered while using a smartphone or other handheld device has soared within the last decade, federal regulators said Monday.

And as KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports, the lack of reliable data could mean the total number of people killed and injured in accidents involving electronics is vastly under-reported.

About 1,152 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. last year for injuries suffered while walking and using a cellphone or some other electronic device, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That number marks a 400 percent increase in those types of incidents over the past seven years.

Natalie, walking down Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles with a chocolate malt in one hand and text messaging a friend with the other, insisted she can handle the challenge.

“I’m pretty good at it, I can multitask,” she said. “If I fall right now, don’t include that.”

But despite those reassurances, LAPD Officer Tyrone Cathcart who walks a foot patrol beat in Central Division said he has witnessed just how dangerous the practice can be.

“A bus almost hit a pedestrian when the bus was trying to conduct a right turn, and the guy just stepped off the curb when he was supposed to turn,” said Cathcart, who added the pedestrian was using a handheld device.

Though overall traffic deaths were lower in 2010 than the year before, pedestrian fatalities rose by 4.2 percent and injuries by 19 percent, according to the latest data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It’s not clear how many of the pedestrian deaths and injuries involved cellphones and other electronics because police often don’t collect that information.

State and local officials are struggling to figure out how to respond, and in some cases asking how far government should go in trying to protect people from themselves.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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