MAYWOOD, Ill. — Siobhan Wicks was texting her roommate while walking down the stairs in her Aurora home when suddenly her world turned topsy turvy.
“I missed a step. I have no idea how it happened but all I know is I was on the floor,” said the 29-year-old Wicks. “I’m a physical therapist so I knew immediately that I had broken my toe. I knew something had happened because it hurt. I took my sock off and, yep, my toe was dislocated.”
After collecting herself, Wicks called her roommate at work who rushed home and took her to the hospital where her foot was placed in an orthopedic shoe to heal. Slightly embarrassed, she declined to volunteer to medical staff what she was doing when she took her fall.
Texting-on-the-go is one of the latest, ubiquitous hazards to life and limb sparked by our high-tech age. Fortunately, most of injuries are of the minor bump-and-bruise variety from people walking into lampposts, falling down stairs and bumping into others while looking down at the tiny keyboards of their cell phones, iphones and Blackberry devices.
“Think about it. How many people now do you see who are walking and texting in crosswalks and on sidewalks or in hallways,” said trauma surgeon Dr. Thomas Esposito at Loyola University Health System in Maywood. “I recently saw a person texting and riding a bicycle with one hand. If you’re going to do that, all I can say is, you better be wearing a helmet.”
Wicks considers herself lucky. Her moment of inattention resulted only in a broken toe and a few weeks having to endure the good-natured ribbing of friends and co-workers. However, there are times when texting-on-the-go has the potential to be far more serious, and even deadly, especially when the distraction involves a person behind the wheel.
“I’m not ashamed that I was doing something else while walking down the stairs but I’ve found that I obviously can’t do two things at once,” she said.
A recent study in the journal Human Factors has found that texting while driving is riskier than talking on a cell phone or with other passengers while driving. Researchers found that people texting in driving simulators had more accidents and were less attentive to the road than those who talked on cell phones while using a simulator.
On any given day last year, an estimated 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone who used a hand-held cell phone at some point during their drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Though young people are most at risk, people of all ages are using a variety of hand-held devices, such as cell phones, personal digital assistants, and navigation devices when they are behind the wheel.
In Illinois, people who text while driving could find themselves facing a $75 fine for a first offense. The law, which went into effect in January, bars motorists from composing or reading text messages. The law, however, has a flaw. It doesn’t ban people from dialing a number or scrolling to find a number on their cell phones and other electronic devices.
“Illinois, the city of Chicago and other municipalities and states across the country have been proactive in protecting the public from themselves by restricting the chances of distraction when it comes to texting and cell phone use while driving,” Esposito said.
“It’s more than about texting and driving. It’s more than about texting and walking. It’s about being distracted,” Esposito added. “If you’re doing something that warrants your undivided attention, like walking down the stairs of driving, you should give it your undivided attention. I’m a surgeon and I don’t think you would like me to perform surgery on you while texting, would you?”
Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 25 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 561-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.