Caution: Walking And Cell Phones Don't Mix Pedestrians preoccupied with cell phones and MP3 players, especially at high volume, risk more than hearing impairment. As with distracted drivers, inattention can have serious — even deadly — consequences on streets and railroad tracks.

Caution: Walking And Cell Phones Don't Mix

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As we noted earlier in the segment, for the past few months, Carol Guensburg of NPR's Digital News has been looking into the problem of distracted pedestrians, and she's written about it on Carol is in the studio. Welcome to the program.

CAROL GUENSBURG: Good morning, Liane. Thanks for having me.

HANSEN: Does anyone keep track of this problem - fatalities, injuries while using headphones or hand-held devices walking on tracks, which is not the best thing, anyway, and auto accidents?

GUENSBURG: There's no central collection of data, no states that I'm aware of collected and certainly, no federal agencies.

HANSEN: Why not?

GUENSBURG: The technology still is, believe it or not, relatively new. It's difficult for states to gather this data unless investigators on the scene have noted the connection initially.

HANSEN: Are there public or private agencies, though, doing anything - knowing that this is a problem - to prevent it?

GUENSBURG: And then you have legislation - at least, proposed legislation. A state senator in New York had proposed banning cell phones and MP3 players in crosswalks in his state's largest cities. And he was suggesting $100 fine for offenders. In Illinois, as well, legislation was proposed but died quietly.

HANSEN: Nanny state issues, no doubt. Don't tell us what we can do and not do.

GUENSBURG: Absolutely, the tech waters went wild. And there were concerns, too, about not using sufficient common sense.

HANSEN: Well, let's talk about common sense. How does one protect oneself while trying to walk and use a headset and a hand-held device at the same time?

GUENSBURG: Even the Consumer Electronics Association will - it's very mindful of these issues, and it advises consumers to not use their MP3 players, for instance, with the volume turned up more than halfway. And they also encourage that people be aware of their surroundings. Again, it's a matter of common sense, they say.

HANSEN: Don't walk on the train tracks, for one, and look before both ways before you cross the street.

GUENSBURG: That would be an important point.

HANSEN: Carol Guensburg works for NPR's Digital News. You can read her stories about distracted pedestrians on Thanks for coming in, Carol.

GUENSBURG: Liane, thank you so much.

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