Middle-aged smartphone users particularly vulnerable to accidents

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“Smartphone zombies” -- referring to people unable to refrain from constantly operating their mobile devices while walking or engaged in other activities -- are easily distinguishable by their distinctive hesitant gait. Nikkan Gendai (Aug 10) reports that phones are increasingly a factor in growing numbers of accidents involving middle-aged users.

How do we know this? From statistics issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department, whose ambulances were called to minister to injuries of a total of 193 hapless individuals who were injured seriously enough to require emergency medical attention between 2012 and 2016. Broken down by age group, of the 193, 40 were aged 40-49; followed by 27 aged 20-29; and 25 aged 50-59.

Another type of hazard that has emerged of late are the so-called atari-ya, people who maliciously collide with smartphone users on purpose.

In September 2016, a 68-year-old man, distracted by his device, failed to see a chain used along a sidewalk, tripped and fell, fracturing his right knee. On July 19, a 63-year-old Kobe man collided with a 55-year-old woman who was absorbed in her smartphone while on a station platform, knocking her down so hard she fractured her skull. Upon his arrest on suspicion of felonious assault, the man remarked to the police, “How can it be my fault? She was the one looking at her phone.”

From this coming Oct 26, authorities in Honolulu, Hawaii will begin enforcing the first law of its kind in U.S. cities, slapping fines of from $15 to $35 on pedestrians caught strolling while using their phones. Will Japanese cities follow in Hawaii’s wake? Currently, an ordinance in Tokyo provides for fines of up to 50,000 yen to people using telephones while riding a moving bicycle.

“Stated simply, the reason why smartphone users walk while looking at their devices is that they justify it by telling themselves, ‘Nothing bad will happen to me,’” Joji Suzuki, a psychiatrist, tells Nikkan Gendai. “They convince themselves that they can see where they are going and that they are exercising sufficient caution. They rationalize it, telling themselves, ‘It’s okay for only me to do it’ and ‘If nobody objects, then it’s all right.’”

While middle-aged people may feel a sense of privilege, irrespective of age, Suzuki believes that most of the accidents involving smartphone users occur because of an exaggerated belief in their own safety, that nothing can possibly go wrong.

“It’s not especially difficult to break oneself of the habit,” he adds. “Just say out loud to yourself, 'Aruki sumahon wa abunai' (It’s dangerous to use a smartphone while walking) and put it in your briefcase. It’s important to say it out loud, and repeat it, two or three times if necessary.”

After all, Nikkan Gendai remarks sarcastically, for a zombie to die in an accident is no laughing matter.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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walking while distracted is bad indeed, but piloting a ton of steel at 60 kilometers an hour while texting your friend is worse, and so much more prevalent.

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