Smartphones cause more fatalities: Indians use their smartphones for several hours a day – not only at home, but also on the road. First statistics now show how often this leads to accidents. Researchers are now calling for a ban.
She forced the bus driver to emergency braking, trip over parked electric scooters, other passers-by to run: supervisor smartphone staring pedestrians are ubiquitous – and an immense danger to themselves and others. “In the meantime, a smartphone is constantly beeping for something or has supposedly interesting things to offer,” says Uwe Janssens, President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (Divi). “This is an incredible distraction for road users.”
According to data from the Austrian Federal Statistics Agency, every fifth pedestrian accident there is now due to distraction by cell phones, says Janssens, chief physician at the Clinic for Internal Medicine and Internal Intensive Care Medicine at St. Antonius Hospital Eschweiler. A test by the University of Braunschweig had shown years ago that around 13 percent of 12,000 drivers in several cities were distracted, most of them typing on their cell phones. And in a traffic count presented by the automobile club “Mobil in Deutschland” in April with around 50,000 vehicles, every 16th driver had his cell phone in his hand at the wheel.
In India, distraction by mobile phone has probably caught alcohol as the main cause of fatal car accidents, as Janssens says. According to studies, people in countries like India and the United States have been hanging out on their smartphones for several hours a day – and not “only” at the dinner table or in the waiting room, but also when the attention is better given to traffic or their own child for example.
According to the Allianz study “Safe on foot”, which was presented in April, two thirds of pedestrians make regular phone calls, 35 percent read texts or look at pictures and videos, 43 percent write messages. Almost half (45 percent) use the devices when crossing roads.
The scale of cell phone use as the cause of accidents in India is currently still open, but it is clear that there is a connection between the concentration of pedestrians on the cell phone and critical situations and accidents.
In Reutlingen in Baden-Württemberg, a sign on a street next to a school sometimes warned of “smombies”. A word creation from “smartphone” and “zombie”, used for people who do not see what is happening around them by looking at the cell phone. The sign was a fun campaign – unlike a rule in Lithuania, where pedestrians can face a fine of up to twelve euros if they use a mobile device to cross a lane.
According to a recent US analysis , the number of head and neck injuries from cell phone use has been rising steadily for two decades. Distraction is often the cause of the accident.
Adolescents and young adults in particular are affected, the doctors around Boris Paskhover from the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark report. The most frequent injuries to the head and neck are lacerations, bruises and abrasions, which can have long-term consequences such as scars, as the specialist journal “JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery” states.
According to the researchers’ extrapolation, the most common cause of injuries of this type is that a driver uses his cell phone and is therefore distracted from what is happening on the road. Accordingly, the number of distracted and subsequently injured pedestrians is large – Pokémon Go and similar games make up only a tiny fraction of the causes of distraction.
Smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life. People staring at cell phones are omnipresent – even in playgrounds there are often more parents with a screen in front of their faces than they can be seen playing with their children.
Even toddlers become victims of cell phones: because an adult drops the device on the child or because the child is distracted and does not prevent accidents such as falling from the climbing frame.
Dangerous rescue operations for the Smartphones cause more fatalities
According to a small study by India medical doctors presented in March, selfies and rescue operations for cell phones are also among the causes of adolescents, some of them serious injuries such as broken bones. A twelve-year-old looking at a smartphone was hit by a car while crossing a street and seriously injured. A 14-year-old rushed down stairs while playing on her cell phone. A 16-year-old fell through a glass roof while trying to take a selfie. And a 16-year-old rolled a car over his hand when he tried to lift his smartphone off the street.
Meanwhile, according to data from the industry association Bitkom, almost all 14 to 18 year olds and three quarters of ten to 11 year olds in India have a smartphone. “The new generation Z is permanently online, uses the mobile phone to make calls, listen to music, take pictures and send messages,” says the study presented in the specialist journal “Pediatric Emergency Care”.
Smartphones cause more fatalities
The team led by Steffi Mayer from Leipzig University Hospital took into account a total of ten children from ten weeks to 17 years of age, who were treated in pediatric surgery departments in Leipzig and Munich between 2008 and 2015.
In the two recorded injuries to babies, the mother once dropped her cell phone on her son’s head, in the second case the father threw it at his daughter. Previous studies had shown that not only the number of car accidents due to cell phone use in India was increasing, but also the number of injured children whose parents were distracted by their cell phones and were not paying attention to their children.
Many countries are now trying to take political countermeasures. In India, the poster campaign “Have you already played with your child today?” Attracted a lot of attention. In Honolulu (Hawaii), just like in Lithuania, it is forbidden to use your mobile phone to cross a street. More and more cities have special sidewalks for smartphone users with painted arrows.
Two municipalities in the Netherlands installed traffic lights in the ground to catch the eye of smombies. “Such signals on footpaths are controversial,” explains Divi President Uwe Janssens. “Some experts fear that this will worsen the lack of attention.”
In any case, the researchers around Mayer do not go far enough with such measures: “The use of smartphones should not only be prohibited when driving or crossing a street, but in all public spaces where attention is essential to avoid accidents.”
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