Monday, January 9, 2012

One Per Cent

Why cellphones are an accident waiting to happen

Paul Marks, senior technology correspondent
73264138.jpg(Image: Westend61/Getty Images)
Ever tripped on a staircase or walked into a street lamp while eagerly checking your texts/tweets/emails on your cellphone? If so, you're not alone: a Finnish study has looked at how mobile phones distract us while we are at work or at play. It's a novel study because to date most research has focussed on the distraction risk mobile phones pose to drivers, generally citing a fourfold increase in crash risk to motorists yakking away on their phones.
Writing in the Accident Analysis and Prevention journal, a team from Tampere Institute of Technology reveals the results of a study in which 6000 people were asked if they had actually had any kind of accident - or had nearly had an accident - while using a mobile. They found that leisure activities posed the highest risk: 13.7 per cent of their sample admitted to having "close calls" - and 2.4 per cent said they had actually had some kind of accident whilst using a phone. In the more health-and-safety regulated confines of the workplace, however, the close calls drop to 4.5 per cent and the accident rate to 0.4 per cent.
Breaking the results down by age, gender and employment status, researchers Leena Korpinen and Rauno Pääkkönen found men and younger people tended to have more close calls and accidents while on their cellphones. And people with jobs had more accident problems during their leisure time than the unemployed. One tangible recommendation is that municipal road maintenance is improved - presumably meaning brighter, clearer signage around roadworks might keep distracted cellphone users from walking into potholes.
Something has to be done, they say, because it is clear from their questionnaire responses that cellphone use "scatters concentration". I'm sorry, did you say something...?

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