October 27, 2016

Smart Phone Zombies

school zone
When you drive past an elementary school and see the school zone sign that tells you to slow down near the school, there is no mystery about the point of the sign of why it is needed. Young children are not always as attentive around traffic as they should be. The sign alerts you - the driver - to the fact that you are in an area where you are especially likely to encounter pedestrians who may require extra caution on your part. Not only do you slow down, but you become extra attentive to the possible presence of children.

I am beginning to think that we need similar signs to warn drivers about adults who cannot seem to walk more than 10 feet without burying their faces in their "smart" phones. We might not need these signs everywhere yet, but we certainly need them on and around college campuses. I nearly hit a college student on my way in to work the other day because he abruptly changed directions and entered the parking lot into which I was turning, head bent in the worship of his smart phone. He couldn't have done a much better job of nearly getting hit if he had been trying to do so. The only reason I didn't hit him was that I had already slowed down to make the turn, and so slamming on the brakes brought me to a stop quickly enough.

This sort of thing has been a problem for long enough that I no longer expect anybody on campus to even look up before walking out into traffic. I don't expect anybody to use the electronic signs that indicate when it is safe to cross the busy intersections. I expect most people to walk so slowly that they would never have time to make it across these intersections before the lights change anyway. At least twice a week, I see students run into one another because both are so focused on their phones. I see them trip and fall over obvious obstacles because they are not looking at anything other than the screens of their phones.

On my way home the other day, I saw this everywhere I looked. It was as if campus had been overtaken by a mindless herd of zombie-like creatures (just in time for JesusWeen), slowly plodding along, oblivious to their surroundings, heads bowed to peer at their phones. They run into each other, mutter apologies without looking up, and move on. I found myself laughing at this comparison. The Walking Dead but with smart phones!

Of course, it really isn't funny. Accidents involving pedestrians have increased significantly. I even know a few students who have sustained broken bones after abruptly walking out in front of slow-moving vehicles without looking. One poor guy broke his arm, his collarbone, and his phone. I couldn't help but wonder which of these caused him the most pain.

Many parents do a good job of teaching their children to look for oncoming vehicles before crossing in front of traffic. I certainly remember having this ingrained into my being as a kid. And yet, it seems that the obsession many have with their smart phones has completely overridden these valuable childhood lessons, producing zombies.

In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I do have one of these "smart" phones. I've somehow managed not to become obsessed with it. In fact, I think it might be fair to say that I despise it in many ways. But one thing is certain: I would never attempt to use it while walking anywhere near traffic to do anything other than answer a phone call. And in the unlikely event that I'd even do that, I wouldn't do it while crossing a street or walking through a parking lot in which vehicles were moving. I value my safety far more than anything I could be doing with a smart phone.
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