Study Suggests There's a "Texting While Walking" Epidemic Too

Forget the grisly effects of texting while driving for a moment, if you can. Instead, focus on a new epidemic, one that's admittedly much sillier than the driving one, but no less dangerous. Ladies and gents, meet texting while walking:

Slightly more than 1,000 pedestrians visited emergency rooms in 2008 because they got distracted and tripped, fell or ran into something while using a cellphone to talk or text. That was twice the number from 2007, which had nearly doubled from 2006, according to a study conducted by Ohio State University, which says it is the first to estimate such accidents. [New York Times]

Yes, folks, the situation is so bad that there are now studies on it. There are reports of concussions, sprained ankles and broken appendages, not to mention the countless number of people who hurt nothing but their pride by walking into a parked car and never went to an ER (happens all the time, apparently). Darwin Award winners are not far behind.

Of course, there's a larger trend here, of which walking while texting is but a small part. It goes by many names: multitasking, information overload, a Gizmodo weekday writer's normal schedule. Whatever you call it, neuroscientists, cognitive researchers and other professionals are now actively studying its impact on our gray matter. So far, it's bad. Basically, talking on a cellphone takes up so much of our attention it's overwhelming ever-important things like, say, our survival instincts. Yes, say researchers, that conversation with your bro about the next Android OS is higher on the pecking order than keeping an eye out for that oncoming train or approaching light pole.

That said, a number of the people interviewed for this story were texting while walking, sure, but they were also flirting or talking with their significant other at the time of the accident. Seems to me the whole texting thing may be a boon to the species after all. Or not. [MSNBC]