The daily distraction that's risking your safety

Image via Flickr

Thanks to some very effective media campaigns, it’s well known that texting and driving can have lethal consequences. But there’s an even more common smartphone habit that’s putting lives at risk – and getting far less attention for it.

Quick question: when you’re out and about in your city or town, do you text your mum as you walk? Or listen to your favourite podcast with headphones jammed in your ears? In our technology-obsessed world this seems par for the course, but it’s seriously risky behaviour when there are cars nearby.

According to a new report by the ABC, police and emergency doctors are “alarmed” at the rising number of pedestrians being injured because they were distracted by handheld devices when crossing the road.

Recently, a young man was struck by a bus in the middle of Sydney with such force his head smashed the vehicle’s windscreen. This is scary enough, but what’s even more frightening is that he didn’t hear the bus coming because he was wearing headphones at the time.

Anyone who regularly listens to music on a device knows the volume doesn’t need to be particularly high before it starts drowning out surrounding noise. Noise-cancelling headphones, like the enormously popular Beats by Dre, make tuning out from the rest of the world even easier. And audio isn’t the only thing that pulls focus – reading articles, watching clips and scrolling through social media can all have the same effect.

The thing is, although speed restrictions exist in CBD areas around the country, a car doesn’t need to be driving very fast to do some serious damage to a pedestrian who steps out at the wrong time.

“You step on the roadway with your mobile phone in your ear, it only takes 30 kilometres an hour by a vehicle, truck or another vehicle on the roadway to make it fatal,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, Commander of the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command told ABC reporter Rebecca Baillie.

With that heart-stopping figure in mind, is urgently posting that witty Facebook status or watching the latest Jimmy Fallon skit as you walk to work really worth the risk  of injury? Probably not.