Beacon Hill lawmakers may need to amend the ban on texting while driving in Massachusetts to include the words “and walking.” A common site on the street now is a person walking along with eyes focused on a smart phone. No stopping, no looking, no thinking. They are called petextrians, smombies, iPhone idiots or clueless. Vextroverts are on the loose.
Psychologists have identified social interactive styles. Extraverts crave stimulation and recognition in the crowd. Introverts enjoy internal musing and quiet ways away from the crowd. Most of us are somewhere in between. Now we have a new distinct breed of human called: vextrovert – a person who only interacts with an electronic device wherever they may be to the vexation of everyone else. The age range tends toward the millennial realm. However, the other day during the morning commute, a preteen was in full petextrian mode while her feet carried her toward school. Whatever happened to teaching a child to look both ways before crossing a street?
Massachusetts Highway Safety Division is participating in the National Distracted Driving Enforcement Campaign: U Drive, U Text, U Pay. Police Departments will step up enforcement of this law from April 10 -15, 2016. Outdoor digital billboards will be used to educate the public. What about also stopping the fool on the street texting along bumping into people and immovable objects. A slow-moving, weaving person is a bore to be behind and worse when they step off the curb.
Critics can blame the device. Some blame the parents. A smart phone is designed to be user-friendly and fun. How often do we see a parent put the thing in the kids hand as a pacifier? “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” Douglas Adams
The situation is a serious public safety concern. Geoffrey A. Fowler writing in The Wall Street Journal says “…emergency room visits involving distracted pedestrians using cellphones were up 124% in 2014 from 2010 and up 10 fold from 2006.” The problem is not confined to the United States. Research at an Australia’s University of Queensland even measured the walking speed of regular pedestrians and petextrians. Road signs in Stockholm warn drivers about petextrians.
Naturalist Charles Darwin established the theory of natural selection. Species evolve and those changes in an organism that most benefit survival will be passed on to offspring. Vextroverts may be a short-lived aberration due to their habit of walking out in traffic while texting. Can’t we see the headline? Petextrian Run Over by Texting Driver. Would it be bizarre if the investigation revealed they were texting each other?