Will a See-Through iPhone Prevent Distracted Walking Accidents?

Florida Pedestrian and Cyclist Accidents

Apple recently secured a patent for technology that may help curb distracted walking accidents – though the jury’s still out on how effective it will be for cell phone-obsessed pedestrians.

Apple’s patent is for “transparent texting” technology that will allow people to see where they’re going as they send texts on their iPhones and avoid pedestrian accidents, according to a recent article on Mashable.com.

The technology doesn’t involve a see-through phone.  Instead, Apple proposes to replace the background screen for the iPhone’s messaging app with live video from the iPhone’s rear-facing camera. The idea is that people sending texts will be more aware of their surroundings if those surroundings are displayed on the same screen as the texts.

Distracted Walking is a Problem in Florida

Distracted walking is a big problem in Florida, with cell phone-using students and young people literally on a collision course with elderly drivers and tourists.  A Florida International University student publication recently published an article focusing on the issue of distracted walking and car accidents.  Students described how they had walked into signs while texting, and one student acknowledged that he “has a horrible habit” of texting while skateboarding.

The students said that college students are so used to having technology available that they have difficulty restraining themselves from using their phones. “People don’t really care about the consequences of their actions, they’re more concerned with what they have to get done in the moment,” one student said.

According to a study by researchers at The Ohio State University, an estimated 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms in the United States in 2010 for injuries related to using cell phones while walking.  Not surprisingly, people aged 16 to 25 were most at risk for injuries.

The number of pedestrians treated in emergency rooms for cell phone related injuries increased for every year of the study, which evaluated data from the years 2004 through 2010. The researchers cautioned that the number of emergency room visits is not an accurate indicator of the actual number of cell phone related distracted walking injuries, since many people who are injured do not go to the emergency room.

The iPhone Technology May Not Help

If people are addicted to their phones, it seems like Apple’s transparent texting technology might help them avoid accidents. But whether the technology delivers on its promise remains to be seen.

Several apps now available on the iTunes store, including Type n Walk and Walk n Text, use the iPhone’s rear camera to provide a “see through” effect while texting.  But these apps have gotten mixed reviews from users.  Some love the apps, but others complain that they are hard to use or the type is difficult to see, potentially increasing the risk of a dangerous walking accident.  And some users say the rear camera view is not very helpful for avoiding accidents because the camera is pointing at the ground when they text, and it only shows what’s right in front of their feet.

In addition, the Ohio State researchers found that texting only accounted for about nine percent of the cell phone related injuries between 2004 and 2010, while 69 percent were due to talking on the phone.  Those talk-related injuries won’t be helped by see-through texting.

And the Mashable.com article questions whether users of the “transparent iPhone” technology will have even more injuries because they would be more likely to text in situations where they wouldn’t have texted before.

Sources:

http://mashable.com/2014/03/28/apple-texting/
http://fiusm.com/2014/03/27/study-reveals-detrimental-effects-of-texting-and-walking/
http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/distractwalk.htm
itunes store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/store?cid=wwa-us-kwg-music-itu