No, this isn’t a scare story from diehard anti-ebook Luddites or tin-hat conspiracy theorists. According to a recent National Safety Council report aired on CBS News, up to 10 percent of U.S. emergency room admissions are now attributable to distraction while walking. The situation is now so serious that, according to the NSC’s recent release, “distracted walking injuries involving cell phones accounted for an estimated 11,101 injuries between 2000 and 2011, making it a significant safety threat. The trend is so alarming that it was included for the first time in the annual National Safety Council statistical report, Injury Facts®.”
This isn’t the first time that such concerns have arisen – Chris Meadows was covering them back in 2012. But the recent figures show things getting worse. Furthermore, the latest NSC figures show that “52 percent of distracted walking incidents involving cell phones happen at home – not adjacent to roadways, as many may believe.”
Is this a serious concern for ereading? Well, as a fanatical reader on my phone, Kindle Fire and other mobile devices while on the move, I’m now thinking again about my habits. More than once, I’ve been too wrapped up in an ebook on my phone to pay much attention to where I was going. And with the number of 7-inch Kindle Fires bought over Christmas, I’m sure I’m not the only one who this might affect. And as the NSC figures suggest, such accidents can happen in the home as well as on the street.
Are there any remedies, aside from the simple one of just breaking the habit? Well, there is one. Audiobooks offer the chance to immerse yourself in a book while walking and still watch your surroundings. I’ve found my enjoyment, comprehension and retention all doing well while listening to audiobooks on the move. Now it seems that audiobooks could keep me safer too.
Triumphant Luddites might like to reflect that paper books and tranquil reading surroundings like libraries may carry their own dangers. But as Chris writes elsewhere, we should probably take those dangers less seriously than the genuine, and quantifiable, risk of ebook-related distracted walking.