An indignant pedestrian weighs Winfrey’s stance against cell phone use while driving
By Jennifer Hadley 02/11/2010
Until recently, the dangers of using cell phones while driving seemed only to generate coverage when a new law banning that behavior use was enacted. Or, in the case of PW, when I decided to make fun of people for getting tickets for breaking these laws. Or, unfortunately, when a tragedy occurred that seemed to link cell phone use to vehicular fatalities. Again, though, media coverage was at best sporadic. Enter arguably one of the most influential people of our lifetime, and everything changes.
I was watching television and clinging to each and every dire warning presented — Toyotas may accelerate without warning, sending me careening off a cliff while riding in my friend’s Corolla — when none other than the media mogul of the Millennium, Ms. Winfrey, herself appeared to frighten me just a little more. During the short PSA in which she appears, she not only tells me that she’s outraged by distracted driving, but that we need to “start our own movement to stop it.” Gulp. Of all of things I’m fearful of, the force of nature that is Oprah ranks right up there near the top of my “don’t mess around with this” list. So when she challenged me to join her No Phone Zone pledge list (Oprah.com/nophonezone), out of fear, I admit I considered it.
But before I took the pledge (which frankly wouldn’t be that hard to keep since I’m rarely in the car and proud to be a pedestrian) I needed to make sure if I did this that I’d at least be safe talking on the phone while I’m walking my dog.
Or walking to the bank. Or walking to the mailbox. Surely there wouldn’t be any danger in using my cell phone while employing humankind’s original mode of transportation: leg power. Lo and behold, just in case I didn’t have enough to be fearful of, a new study popped right up on the Internet, gleefully informing me that accidents resulting in injury due to texting or talking on a cell phone while WALKING are on the rise.
The study, conducted by Ohio State University and released in January, showed that emergency room visits due to such injuries doubled in 2008 from the previous year. And in 2007, such visits had almost doubled since 2006. I concede that the injuries from walking and talking may be minor compared to the fatalities that driving while talking or texting can and do yield. But all the same, I think this warning to pedestrians needs to be out there. There are a lot of people who choose to walk as their primary source of transportation. And more than likely quite a few more — Ahem! Toyota owners —will be hoofing it in coming days, weeks and months.
Armed with this newfound knowledge (read: fear) of the dangers of using my cell phone when doing anything other than sitting still, I have decided that I will only sign Oprah’s No Phone Zone pledge on one condition: She must commit to releasing a second PSA on the dangers of walking, talking and texting. I mean a visit to the emergency room because I fell down a manhole while facebooking my friends from my Blackberry is no small injury. In fact, it’s one that would probably come with a pretty big hospital bill. But if Oprah isn’t willing to let me know just how dangerous this seemingly innocuous multi-tasking exercise can be, then I take offense at her lack of concern for pedestrians.
And now I’m going to fake my own death and go on the lam before O’s legal team sues the bejesus out of me for writing this column.
Contact Jennifer Hadley at firstname.lastname@example.org.