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When Communication is a Danger

In September 2008, a train engineer in California caused one of the worst railroad crashes in American history while sending and receiving text messages. The crash killed 25 people. Most people know better than to send and receive SMS' (short message service) while driving or in other situations that have the potential for danger, yet according to a survey released a month after the crash, 77% use their cell phones while driving their cars. And another 41% of them are using mobile e-mail devices like the BlackBerry while riding their bikes, doing the slalom, and galloping on horseback, according to the results of a survey commissioned by Neverfail Inc., a software company in Austin, Texas that creates protection systems for businesses.

According to investigators, the California train crash occurred as the engineer of a well-populated commuter train was text-messaging from his mobile phone, causing him to run a red light. The train collided with a freight train just outside of Los Angeles, killing 25 people on that September day.

The Neverfail survey believes that mobile phone use by the corporate work force will rise to some 40% within the next two years. As of now, cell phone use among this population stands at just under 25%. Michael Osterman, president of Black Diamond, Washington-based Osterman Research, the company that conducted the survey for Neverfail, feels that the current economic crisis may lead workers to feel more pressure, causing them to make more use of their mobile devices. Osterman believes that the workplace will be comprised of fewer people doing the work of many who are no longer there. The larger responsibilities will lead to a need to communicate, receive advice, and relieve stress.

It's a Habit

18% of those surveyed have used their mobile devices during a wedding, 16% during funerals or memorial services, and 37% during a graduation. And if that doesn't shock you, how about this: 11% of those surveyed have used their mobile devices during intimate moments and 79% have used them in the bathroom.

The survey included responses from 148 American adults and was conducted between the 4th and 26th of August 2008. The margin of error is said to have varied depending upon the question, however, the average is five percentage points, plus or minus.

In early 2008, the American College of Emergency Medicine issued a warning against text-messaging while driving, biking, skating, and walking. Members of this emergency medicine body had noticed that the percentage of injuries and deaths due to the sending and receiving of text messages at times deemed less than appropriate had risen.

iPod Oblivion

The travel and motorist group AAA, performed a survey the previous year which showed that almost half of American teens are text-messaging while driving.

One New York state legislator has proposed a bill to fight the phenomenon known as "iPod oblivion," and hopes pedestrians will be fined for crossing busy inner-city streets while using their portable media players.


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