The dangers involved with texting and driving are pretty well known these days. Thankfully, in February of 2010, Ontario legislation prohibiting the use of handheld devices and text messaging while driving went into full effect. Particularly, Ontario drivers must now abide by S 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, which reads:
"No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages."
Furthermore, in March of 2014, then Transportation Minister Glen Murray introduced Bill 173, the Keeping Ontario's Roads Safe Act, which would increase penalties for texting while driving and all handheld cell phone use.
While the recognition of such undeniable dangers is commendable and will likely lead to safer drivers and safer roads, there is another – less infamous -- danger that unfortunately lurks in distracted drivers' shadow. This danger is texting while walking.
On February 23, 2014, an article entitled "The Art of Texting While Walking" was published in the New York Times Magazine. Here, Gretchen Reynolds, a successful health and fitness author, details the cognitive challenges of texting and walking. Ultimately, Reynold argues that although walking is not driving, in some ways, it is more cognitively and physically demanding. Reynolds also cites a recent University of Queensland study where texting was shown to significantly distort the gait of pedestrians, limiting their range of motion, and ultimately turning them into virtual robots. Looking into this topic further, I found another rather telling study, conducted by Stony Brook University, where it was revealed that when people walked and used their cell phones at the same time, they were 61% percent more likely to swerve off their intended course and 13% more likely to overshoot their ultimate targets.
So what do these cognitive challenges mean for pedestrians and the overall safety of Ontario Roads? Unfortunately, according to Dr. Dietrich Jehle, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo, distracted walking causes more injuries per mile than distracted driving.
Although there is currently no law against texting and walking in Canada, such an occurrence is not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, police officers in Fort Lee, have admitted to handing out countless $85 tickets to pedestrians they find texting while walking, in an attempt to address the fatal pedestrian-involved motor vehicle accidents that have occurred in this small town in New Jersey, USA.
The bottom line? Illegal or not, stay off those phones when you're walking. Look around! Enjoy this beautiful city! And most of all, keep Ontario roads safe!
by Ramona Pimentel, Student-at-Law
For more news and updates about Toronto auto collisions, contact JEWELL RADIMISIS JORGE LLP.