by Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com
THE Philippines may still hold the title of being the texting capital of the world but recent developments in the United Kingdom may just change that.
UK media recently expressed alarm over texting as a vocational hazard. Reports have shown people crashing into poles and bins along streets where they walked while texting. In the same report, they recognized that Filipinos still hold the no.1 national record in texting, sending a billion text messages daily in 2007.
Global interest was stirred when news videos in Europe which were posted on the Internet showed some London pedestrians who have become so preoccupied with e-mailing and text messaging on their cellphones that they can’t make it down a city block without crashing into lampposts or trash bins. People were filmed walking head down, ricocheting off various stationary sidewalk objects.
A solution was proposed in the news video showing a pilot project in Brick Lane where lampposts were padded to make them more pedestrian-friendly.
“Britain’s first safe text street has been created complete with padded lampposts to protect millions of mobile phone users from getting hurt in street accidents while walking and texting,” the London Daily Mail proclaimed. But it turned out that the lamppostwrapping scheme was just a clever public-relations ploy mounted by 118118, a British directory assistance company, and Living Streets, a well-known charity dedicated to making cities more pedestrian-friendly. In tandem with the publicity stunt, Living Streets conducted a survey of 1,000 texting people and found that 1 in 10 had suffered injuries while texting and walking.
Though the lamppost bumpers were removed from Brick Lane after only 24 hours, the concern for the rampant dangers of walking while texting rages on.
A few months ago, New York State Senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn introduced a bill in Albany to combat “iPod oblivion.” His bill, which was prompted by the death of two constituents who were killed crossing the street while listening to their iPods, sought to ban pedestrians from using earphones in crosswalks in New York’s large urban areas. The bill languished in committee last year, but the Senator has reintroduced it in 2008.
US law enforcement agencies agree that the increase in text messaging endangers both drivers and pedestrians. Many States have outlawed text messaging while driving, and Maryland and Virginia are considering banning cyclists from text messaging on the go. While having the distinction of being the texting capital of the world connotes a techno-savvy culture, safe use of technology should always comes first.