Home / William Hennelly

Smartphone fixation puts people in dangerous predicaments

By William Hennelly | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-12-16 00:26

Staring at one's phone while walking in public isn't a wise thing to do, particularly in a parking garage.

A woman in Jiangsu provinceis lucky to be alive after she was struck by a car in an automated parking garage on Dec 6.

A clear video shows that seconds before the accident, she was oblivious to the fact that she had wandered onto an empty car elevator and took a ride down one floor.

"She is looking at her phone the whole time and walks into the lift after a car drives out," said a technician at the garage.

The vertical drop roused her only momentarily from her mobile trance.

Then, one floor lower, as she continued to clutch her phone, an SUV emerged on the same automated lift. Inexplicably, she walked toward the vehicle as it approached, although she may have been trying to sidestep it.

Because there was no driver in the SUV, the vehicle surged forward on a conveyor belt, knocking her down. Surprisingly, she sustained only an ankle injury.

The garage was at the Jiangsu Provincial People's Hospital in Nanjing, which probably helped expedite her medical treatment.

On Nov 4, also in Nanjing, the driver of a $300,000 Maserati was checking her phone messages before blithely driving into a pond.

Those mobile users survived, but China - where approximately 710 million people access the internet on their smartphones - has suffered some terrible tragedies recently.

In October in Yueyang, Hunan province, a 2-year-old girl was killed as she wandered in front of an SUV as her mother trailed behind - occupied by her phone.

"Heart-wrenching!" the Shandong provincial prosecutor's office exclaimed in a Weibo post. "Put down your phone. Save the children!"

Two other 2-year-olds were killed under similar circumstances in Henan and Anhui provinces last year.

In 2014, Chongqing municipality created a 165-foot stretch for users of mobile devices. A sign on the walkway says: "First Mobile Phone Sidewalks in China".

In the US, 5,987 pedestrians were killed in auto accidents in 2016, almost 1,100 more than in 2014. Notably, the increase in fatalities has been largely among bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, which has led some safety groups to conclude distracted drivers and walkers are propelling those numbers.

Forty-seven US states have banned texting while driving, and the National Safety Council has encouraged the other three states - Arizona, Missouri and Montana - to do so immediately.

And in October, Honolulu became the first American city to impose a ban on pedestrians looking at mobile phones or texting while crossing the street.

"We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the county," Mayor Kirk Caldwell told Reuters.

Back when mobile (or "portable") phones were the size of a walkie-talkie, walking and talking in traffic wasn't necessarily dangerous, because you didn't need to avert your eyes, as long as you weren't dialing while walking.

But one does need to lower his or her gaze to type on a tiny smartphone keyboard or watch a video on a 5-inch screen.

Smartphone addicts also aggravate their fellow pedestrians, particularly in a city like New York. When the walk sign is on, New Yorkers want to get across that street post haste, not stand behind some bozo who is entranced by a text or video.

Aside from having to walk around the fool, on a cold or rainy day it could result in your slipping on the ice or walking through a puddle - and possibly worse for him.

Contact the writer at

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349