March 12, 2008
Years ago, parents would be sure to remind their teens to
have "phone money" when they went out. Whatever the cost of
a pay phone was, parents felt better if their kids had
change in their pocket for at least one call. With pay
phones becoming a rarer and rarer sight, and cell phones on
the rise, many now feel safer if there is a cell phone
(rather than change) in that pocket and ready to be used in
case of an emergency.
Parents feel better knowing they can reach their teens--and
knowing that their teens can reach them. Teens feel safer
knowing that they can call someone for help if there is a
problem. The problem? At what point does "feeling" safer
get in the way of actually "being" safer?
"College students packing cell phones feel safer than those
without and are more likely to take risky walks at night, a
new study finds. The research reveals that carrying a cell
phone can amp up risk-taking, particularly among women.
'Students seem to feel less vulnerable when they carry a
cell phone, although there's not evidence that they really
are,' said study researcher Jack Nasar, a professor of city
and regional planning at Ohio State University. 'If
anything, they are probably less safe because they are
paying less attention to their surroundings.'"
A cell phone is a good thing to have if there is a problem
and there is a need to call for help. Having a cell phone,
however, does not prevent a crime from taking place just
because it is there.
When used properly a cell phone can provide safety to those
who are faced with the possibility of walking alone at
night--as they can call for a ride. Additionally, those who
are faced with the possibility of riding with a drunk
driver can call for a sober ride home.
It is when cell phones are used improperly, or when people
get a false sense of security just because they know they
have a phone, that they can make a situation more
"Research amongst drivers suggests that pedestrians using
mobile telephones may behave riskily while crossing the
road, and casual observation suggests concerning levels of
pedestrian mobile-use. An observational field survey of 270
females and 276 males was conducted to compare the safety
of crossing behaviours for pedestrians using, versus not
using, a mobile phone. Amongst females, pedestrians who
crossed while talking on a mobile phone crossed more
slowly, and were less likely to look at traffic before
starting to cross, to wait for traffic to stop, or to look
at traffic while crossing, compared to matched controls.
For males, pedestrians who crossed while talking on a
mobile phone crossed more slowly at unsignalised crossings.
These effects suggest that talking on a mobile phone is
associated with cognitive distraction that may undermine
It's not just drivers who can get distracted while talking
on their phones, it can be dangerous for distracted
pedestrians, as well--and if the driver and the pedestrian
both hit that intersection at the same time, then tragedy
Teens and college students often need to walk to get from
place to place. Whether crossing the street to get to
class, or trying to get home after being out with friends
across campus, many end up walking to get to where they
need to be.
"ASHLAND, Ore -- The Ashland School Board held a meeting
Monday night to discuss crosswalk safety after the death of
an SOU [Southern Oregon University] student at a downtown
crosswalk last month. School leaders are now worried about
younger students crossing the streets. Beginning March
31st, Ashland High School band, orchestra, choir and
physical education classes will be held at Lincoln
Elementary while construction begins on the high school
campus. This means students will be crossing Siskiyou
Boulevard several times a day. 'We've got to teach our kids
pedestrian safety. That means not using i-Pods or talking
on their cell phones, looking both ways, all those old
fashioned things,' says Ashland High School Principle Jeff
Whether listening to an i-Pod or the person on the other
end of a cell phone call, it is more difficult to listen
and pay attention to one's surroundings.
When walking at night, near traffic, or just trying to get
to class, a person's safety is partially dependent upon
their ability to stay safe in their surroundings.
"Use crosswalks and be careful crossing streets. Cars are
required to stop when you step into the crosswalk (where
there's no traffic light), but they don't always do it.
Make sure they see you and don't dart into traffic. They
may be required to stop, but in a confrontation with a car,
you will lose.
- "Be aware of your surroundings. Make eye contact with
others. Show an awareness of those around you. ...
- Pick walking routes that are well-lighted and
well-traveled, even if they are longer. ...
- Try to walk with a companion, especially at night. If you
are uncomfortable walking alone on campus, find an
emergency phone and call Public Safety.
- Call ahead to your destination if you can and let them
know your route and estimated arrival time."
Where you walk is important, as is how...
- "Don't walk with headphones so that you can hear what is
going on around you.
- If you think that you are being followed, cross the
street to see if the person does the same. Do not be afraid
to start running if you need to - don't wait until the
person is very close to you to do this. Go to the nearest
store, restaurant, or police station.
- Walk quickly and confidently.
- If an unfamiliar person grabs your purse or bag, just let
go. DO NOT struggle with them to try to get it back. If you
fight, you risk getting hurt. Money and other belongings
can be replaced - your safety is the most important thing.
Run in the opposite direction of the person and go to the
nearest police station or store to call for help.
- If you are in trouble, yell! This will bring attention
from the people around you."
Stuff can be replaced, even that cell phone. In case of an
emergency, it is a good thing to have... Even better, it
can be used to call for a ride and reduce the chance of an
emergency situation even happening. That said, cell phones
can cause problems when they become a distraction.
As people keep their cell phones in their pockets (they are
easier to use when not in the bag that was just stolen),
cell phones also need to be kept in perspective. There is
only so much that even the most hi-tech phone can do to
keep a person safe.
Questions of the Week:
How can a cell phone make someone "feel" safer when out,
and how can a cell phone help someone to "be" safer when
out? Why do you think cell phones give some people a false
sense of security? How can teens use cell phones to create
a safer environment for themselves? How does using a cell
phone have the potential to create a more dangerous
environment? What do you think your peers need to
understand about the limitations of cell phones?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum