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Hang up the phone and walk! (Better not chew gum, either)

August 1, 2012 - Burton Cole (humor columnist)

Dad often coached me in the art of concentration when I attempted feats of youthful athleticism.

“You can't even walk and chew gum at the same time,” he'd say, shaking his head.

It was good advice. Dividing my concentration by trying to conquer two tasks at once was a recipe for disaster for someone of my skills. I'd either end up with gum tangled in my hair, or I'd find myself lying in the cows' water trough, looking up into a big, slobbery muzzle.

Dad was an early pioneer in the latest healthy habits warning for modern survival: the dangers of distracted walking.

We are well aware of the hazards of distracted driving. On the stupidity scale, texting while driving has zipped ahead of shaving with a razor while driving and eating tomato soup with a spoon while driving. (I can't believe I was that stupid three decades ago – or the miracle that no one but me got hurt.)

Now the warnings are coming out about distracted walking.

About 1,152 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the United States last year for injuries suffered while walking and using a cellphone or some other electronic device, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which receives annual data from 100 emergency rooms.

Fort Lee, N.J., passed a law against “dangerous walking” after too many reports of jaywalkers being hit or nearly so while distracted by cell phones or other devices. Video footage from around the country features everything from a guy near Philadelphia falling onto a train track while texting (the train wasn't coming) to a woman flipping into the mall fountain while texting to a Los Angeles man nearly running into a bear while texting. And most of us probably have been bumped into at least once by someone paying more attention to their phone or game than where they were going.

People, please. It's a beautiful day out here. Hang up the phone and walk!

And as an added precaution, be careful with the chewing gum, too. It's the kind of challenge that gives some of us fits.


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Distracted walkers perhaps about to bump into a table.


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