In a case of “fatal distraction,” a man loses his life by staring at his phone and walking off a cliff.
Tragedy befell a man on Christmas Day when he plummeted approximately 60 feet to his death at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. Witnesses stated they saw a man in his 30s who, while distracted by a cell phone or camera, simply fell over the edge. Three individuals made their way down the cliff safely in an unsuccessful attempt to save the man; he was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.
This is an extreme example of how distracted we can be when using our mobile devices, though we’d hazard a guess that it’s a rare case in which walking while using a smart phone becomes fatal due to a nearby cliff. But as it turns out, “distracted walking” does often lead to pedestrian injuries, sometimes even critically. This can happen whether a person has his eyes on a device and is paying zero attention to his surroundings, or is even just listening to music.
“Some data suggests that at any given moment on the streets of America, 60 percent of pedestrians are distracted while walking, meaning either on the phone or doing something on their phone,” said Alan S. Hilibrand of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The kicker is that distracted walking may be taking place among so many of us because, well, we think we can handle it and that we’re pros at multi-tasking. But as more research is performed, probably in futile attempts to pry our phones from our cold, dead hands, it’s proving that our brains simply aren’t wired to multi-task as well as we think.
The human brain evolved to allow us to focus on one important thing at a time; this used to be an asset as we tried to survive among predators while living in caves and the like. The truth is, not a whole lot has changed, although instead of avoiding becoming sabre-tooth tiger food, we’re reading work emails while cooking dinner and trying to stream the latest season of “Tumbleleaf” for toddlers tugging on our yoga-pant legs.
According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, what you think is multi-tasking is really just shifting focus from one activity to another… and doing so poorly at that. It’s a quick shift, as fast as one tenth of a second, but the amount of brainpower required to do it might affect both your performance and the quality of the work that you produce. We’ve all been there: we play on our phones for a few seconds while a movie is playing, and then have no clue what happened even though we were “watching” the whole time.
There are people out there who are super multi-taskers, but you might be shocked to learn that it’s extremely rare: only 2% of the population is blessed to be able to truly juggle activities simultaneously (with women taking the prize at doing it better). To a parent that’s probably pretty disheartening news, considering we often have no choice but to try to do it all. That said, feel free to take some of the pressure off yourself because biologically, you’re probably incapable of doing everything at once. Enjoy the view, play with your kids, mess around with your phone… just know that you’ll get more from each activity if you focus on them individually, while also (hopefully) staying safe.