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Is it time for texting/no texting lanes on sidewalks?

Months after a University at Buffalo study found texting while driving to be more dangerous than distracted driving, the National Geographic Channel decided to test texting and non texting lanes on a Washington DC sidewalk. 

How often do you see it? How annoying and dangerous do you think it is?

How often do you encounter someone who isn't paying attention because of their cell phone?
Several times a day
( 51% )
( 32% )
( 15% )
Almost never
( 3% )
  "The other day I was out and a guy was teaching his kid how to ride a bicycle. And.. I'm watching him and he's texting while the kid's riding the bicycle away with one training wheel on.  and I'm thinking to myself 'there is a time and place for texting, and that doesn't seem to be the right time or place',"

-- Tonawanda Police Capt. JosephCarosi

Pedestrians walking along a sidewalk in the nation's capital Thursday found themselves with a choice.

"No cellphones," said lettering on one side of the sidewalk. "Cellphones," the other lane said. "Walk at your own risk."

The walkway warnings, which ran about a block on Washington's 18th Street, weren't the work of city officials. Instead, they were put there by the brains behind a National Geographic television show as part of a behavior experiment.

A National Geographic Channel spokesman acknowledged the channel was behind the temporary signage and said pedestrians' reactions were being filmed for "Mind Over Masses," a new series. But the spokesman, Chad Sandhas, declined to discuss details of the experiment during the filming, which he said would continue Friday.

A notice on the website of the city's Office of Motion Picture and Television Development said the new science series "uses what we know about human behavior" to develop "interactive solutions to everyday problems." The notice said the show planned to create "Fast and slow lanes" on the sidewalk, "allowing participants to choose."

On Thursday afternoon, many pedestrians seemed to ignore the markings, though there were some who took pictures of the novel signage or stopped to watch someone in a gorilla suit eating a banana that was also somehow part of the filming.

Irene Fadakar, 54, a secretary who walking, said she noticed the markings at the beginning of the sidewalk. But she acknowledged that less than a block later she was back on her phone, walking in the lane marked no cellphones.

Why can't we just unplug from our phones?  Hear Social Media Strategist Kevin Evanetski from consulting firm Social Yeah! , on the liveline with John & Susan Wednesday morning at 7:50

In April, University at Buffalo professor Dr. Richard Jehle MD, a physician at ECMC determined that mile per mile, texting while walking is more dangerous than texting and driving,

Of the 41,000 pedestrians treated in emergency rooms across the nation, as many as 15 percent of the accidents involved cellphones, he says.

“When texting, you’re not as in control with the complex actions of walking. While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can’t see the path in front of you," says Jehle in the UB Reporter, a University at Buffalo in-house journal.

Other studies have also looked at the trouble.

SUNY Stony Brook finds that when people used their cellphones while walking, they veered off course 61 percent more of the time and over shot their target 13 percent more of the time than when they were not distracted.

More than 1,500 pedestrians were estimated to be treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking, according to a  nationwide study.

“If current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015,” said Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at The Ohio State University.

“The role of cell phones in distracted driving injuries and deaths gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but we need to also consider the danger cell phone use poses to pedestrians.”

The study found that young people aged 16 to 25 were most likely to be injured as distracted pedestrians, and most were hurt while talking rather than texting.

AP Photo
As part of their Mind Over Masses television show, National Geographic divided a one block-long sidewalk into two sections; one for cell phone users and the other for those not using a cell phone in downtown Washington, Thursday, July 17, 2014. The walkway warnings were put there by the brains behind a National Geographic television show as part of a behavioral science experiment. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)


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