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Chicagoans Not Surprised 'Distracted Walking' Becoming A Bigger Problem

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Safety and government experts say they're seeing more incidents in which people are injured or killed when they are walking while texting, talking on cell phones, or while listening to music.

It's called "distracted walking," and Chicagoans see plenty of it too.

WBBM's Bernie Tafoya reports Thema Peters immediately began laughing when asked about the subject of distracted walking.

"Yeah, I'm a little guilty of it. I can't help it. I walk, I text, I'm putting on music. It's a problem," she said. "It's a real problem."

Peters said she's going to try to curb that problem before the curb becomes her problem.

Safety experts say more and more people are winding up in emergency rooms – or dead – because of distracted walking.

"We see that all the time," Dr. Thomas Esposito, head of the trauma department at Loyola University Health System, tells CBS 2's Brad Edwards. "Often time falls, often time head injuries. It is disturbing and we continually see what I like to describe as stupid human tricks."

According to the Associated Press, reports of distracted walkers winding up in hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled since 2005, and are likely under-reported.

More than 1,100 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms last year for injuries suffered while walking and using a cell phone or other portable electronic device, according to the Consumer Product Safety commission. That figure doesn't include patients who didn't tell doctors they were on the phone or listening to music when they got hurt, or cases when a doctor or nurse didn't include such information in an injury report.

Chicagoans weren't surprised that people who are multitasking while they walk can end up in the hospital.

Carol Daker was taking a walk on the Southwest Side on Monday without listening to music on a set of ear buds, or using her cell phone to talk or text. She said cell phones and music players are distractions when you're walking.

"I see my girlfriends and I discourage them from walking or running with ear buds and stuff. I say tune in to your environment. You know, keep an eye and ears on where you are, and what's going on," Daker said.

But Donna, who was walking in the Beverly neighborhood Monday wearing a pair of ear buds, said they don't stop her from paying attention to her surroundings.

"I'm a little bit more savvy than that," she said. "I look at streets."

When distracted walking isn't dangerous, Colleen Mulchrone said it can be humorous.

"The funniest one was a girl after a fest, I think, and she was having a little fun at the fest, and she became a moving target for anyone coming towards her," she said.

She said she notices more distracted walkers downtown.

"They miss the curb. They're on their phone, and then all of a sudden they're tripping over the curb," she said.

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