Tag: injury

Did You See That? A Cell Phone Distracted World

cell-phone-userQuick, where is your cell phone? A pretty accurate guess for most readers is your cell phone is within arm’s reach, if not in your pocket or your hands. It probably has at least some portion of your attention right now, even as you’re reading this.

With the average person checking their phone 150 times a day, it’s clear that cell phones are ingrained in human behavior. The changes cell phones have made in daily lives has lead to a new, growing safety concern in the form of distracted walking.

Attention (the ability to concentrate on an activity for a prolonged period of time without getting distracted) is shrinking at an alarming rate, resulting in many unintentional injuries. From 2010 to 2011, there were more than 11,000 injuries due to distracted walking! Fifty-two percent of distracted walking injuries occur at home, with 54 percent to people 40 and younger, and nearly 80 percent of these injuries are due to falls. Instead of paying attention to where we are and what we’re doing, we’re trying to multitask and paying the price for it. Need more proof? Watch this video:

The human brain was not designed for divided attention (completing two tasks requiring the same concentration at the same time). When a cell phone user tries to walk at the same time, they’re missing out on significant cues, ultimately walking off course, stepping into traffic, or missing out on what’s going on around them. In a study conducted at Western Washington University, approximately 75 percent of cell phone users suffered from inattention blindness, failing to notice an out of place unicylcing clown in the square where they were walking. Just as inattention blindness contributes to vehicle collisions, it has also contributed to the rise in unintentional injuries from distracted walking.

To fix a safety issue, the typical steps are identifying the hazard and then:

  1. Eliminate the hazard when possible,
  2. Guard against hazards that cannot be eliminated
  3. Warn for hazards that can’t be eliminated or guarded against
  4. Change human behavior when there are no other options.

The hazard of distracted walking poses problems for the traditional eliminate, guard, and warn against options. Cell phones cannot be eliminated from every day life. Options to guard against the dangers of distracted walking are limited. Some restaurants are knocking out cell phone coverage to increase social interaction and minimize distractions but it is not a viable solution for public streets. Warnings can be sent via text/pop up messages but with distracted attention on cell phones, most will not be noticed or will be ignored.

This leaves us with the only, last option, to change human behavior. This is the least effective and slowest moving option for safety. Just look how long it took for regular seat belt usage to be the normal! Teaching ourselves to stop texting, tweeting, sharing, posting, and searching the internet while walking is going to a long, drawn out road. Abraham Lincoln couldn’t foresee the cell phone issue but he recognized human nature. “Human action can be modified to some extent but human nature cannot be changed,” Lincoln said.

Listen in as Kevin King discusses the issue of distracted walking and how it relates to our safety on People’s Law Talk.

It’s a newer, twenty-first century problem, but the statistics and facts on the distractions of cell phones, including the distracted walking hazard, are already rolling in. Check out these resources for more details on the issue:

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

The Numbers Are Shocking

StatisticsFor more than 90 years the National Safety Council has published Injury Facts, a reference source for safety statistics. The 2015 version has just been released and the some of the safety statistics are alarming.

If one desires to understand how well the United States is doing in safety, the Injury Facts provide a shocking insight regarding statistical data of injuries, death, and economic impact upon our society. To show you just how serious and far-spread the impact can be, we’ve pulled some statistics from Injury Reports 2015 to share.

Unintentional injury related deaths in 2013, including all accidental injures and positioning, were approximately 130,800. It excludes homicides, suicides, and war deaths. Unintentional injury related deaths are the number one cause of death for the age group of 1-44.

Breaking that number down, there were approximately 35,500 motor vehicle injury related deaths, 66,000 home injury related deaths, and 3,738 work injury related deaths, with agriculture (i.e. farming, forestry, fishing, and hunting)being the highest occupation for unintentional injury related deaths.

There were approximately 39,600,000 non-fatal medically consulted injuries. This translates into about 1 out of 8 Americans seeking medical attention for injuries. There were approximately 4.3 million automobile related injuries, 20 million home related injuries, and 4.8 million work related injuries.

From an economic standpoint, the impact of fatal and non-fatal unintentional injuries amounted to almost $821 billion in 2013, equivalent to approximately $6,700 per household. These are the costs that every household pays directly through higher prices for goods, services, or taxes.

Besides the $821 billion in economic losses, the lost quality of life is estimated at an additional $4,254 billion, making the comprehensive costs approximately $5,074 billion in 2013. To provide you with a yardstick for comparison, the Department of Defense budget for fiscal year 2013 was $525.4 billion. Unintentional injuries cost almost 10 times that in 2013!

We have a long way to go toward a safer society. Remember, it is cheaper to put the fence at the top of the cliff than pay for the ambulance below. True safety begins with recognition of hazards and risks in the design of products, procedures, and environments to eliminate the hazards to the extent reasonably possible for a safer society.

The Future Came Too Soon

HoverboardDoc Brown and Marty McFly had to travel all the way to the future to find a hoverboard. Now we’re living in that future, only the future may have come too soon. Thousands of hoverboards are being sold without proper hazard analysis and now consumers are being put in grave danger.

On December 16, 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement directing its agency staff to “work non-stop to find the root cause…” of fire hazards associated with hoverboards.

However, fire is not the only hazard relative to hoverboards. In the statement released by the CPSC, it also recognized that it has received dozens of reports of injuries from emergency rooms of hospitals relating to hoverboards.

Unbeknownst to consumers, risk of serious injury is associated with hoverboards. By comparison, approximately 120,500 people are treated annually in emergency rooms for skateboard injuries. Half of the injured are between the ages of 15-24. More than 34 percent are 14 and younger. Head injuries, fractures, internal organ injuries are some of the serious injuries.

Consumers are not aware of the ‘gravity of risk’ associated with hoverboard use. Consumers might believe that these incidents “only happen to someone else” or “I will be careful” in using a product. However, such wishful thinking is unacceptable regarding product design.

The most effective means to avoid incidents is by eliminating or reducing hazards during the design and development of a product before reaching consumers, but, as the saying goes, “it is too late to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.”

Designers and manufactures of hoverboards should have undertaken hazard analyses to identify unsafe physical conditions and risk analyses to determine the probability of serious injury and/or death. Within risk analyses, there should be further analyses to understand how consumers will use the product.

As the CPSC continues their investigation, they should demand designers and manufacturers provide their hazard and risk analyses regarding hoverboards. This would greatly assist the CPSC in its investigation. Otherwise, tax payers will end up footing the bill to determine root causes of why hoverboards are causing damage to consumers and property.

The future came too soon and now consumers are in harms way. It’s too late to go back, so now it’s time to find the way to a safer future.