Texting while walking can be dangerous

March 15, 2013

Hello, and welcome to AS IT IS! … your daily magazine show from VOA Learning English. 

I’m June Simms.

Marathon runner Fauja Singh will celebrate his 102 birthday in April. Today we hear why the so-called “Turbaned Tornado” is calling it quits as a long distance runner.

Also, several states in America have made it illegal to text while driving. They say the dangers related to the behavior are far too great. Today, we talk about how texting while walking can be just as dangerous, and how a non-profit group is trying to reduce the behavior, especially among young people. 

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Youngner sees walking to school as a chance to do what she likes best: listen to music. 

“There is a lot of work to be done, especially in high school. When you take harder classes, so there’s not always a lot of free time to listen to music or watch TV or be with friends.”

Two other teenagers, Andrew Summers and Nailah Philips, also admit to using wireless devices a lot while on the go.

“I usually text or go on the Internet while I’m walking.”

“I will listen to music. If my Mom texts or calls me I’m talking to her, because if I miss her call that’s it.”

These Virginia students attended a class about the risks of distracted walking. A group called Safe Kids Worldwide organized the event. 

“I’m going to ask you some questions about pedestrian safety. And it’s not a test, so there is no right or wrong answers. We want your honest opinion. OK?”

Linda Watkins is Injury Prevention Coordinator for Safe Kids Worldwide. She says she understands why young people do not see a problem with walking while texting or listening to music.

“Kids these days think that they can really multi-task. So they think that, 'I can listen to my music. I can watch for the traffic, and then I can cross the street all at the same time.'“

But often, she says, teenagers do not realize how dangerous crossing the street has become.

“There is the problem with the distracted driver, too. So you’re a distracted driver. You’re a distracted pedestrian. And that is just a recipe for disaster. So the pedestrian has to accept some responsibility also when it comes to being safe.”

The Safe Kids Worldwide class made students part of the solution. Angela Mickalide is the director of research for the group. She says putting facts in front of teenagers increases their understanding of the problem.

“Today in the United States, 61 children will be hit while crossing the street. And this year, 500 children 19 and under will be killed from a pedestrian incident.”

She says her group is suggesting a number of measures to lessen the risks. 

“We’re trying to educate kids and drivers and families that they need to put away their distracting technologies when they cross the street. We’re also working very hard to create better infrastructure. We’re building roads, putting in signage, putting in crosswalks all around the country and in nine other countries throughout the world. And finally, we’re conducting research on this important issue.”

That research shows that distracted walking has become a problem worldwide with the growth of mobile phones.

“For example, in South Africa in the last 10 years alone the percentage of the population who owns a cell phone has grown from 17 percent to 76 percent. In fact, South Africans have greater access to cell phones than they do clean running water.”

She says another reason is urban development.

“We’re building highways without having the proper education for people in learning how to cross the street. This is a particular problem in India. And, in China, we have many people moving from the rural to more urban areas.” 

Linda Watkins says she is not asking teenagers to stop using their hand held devices all the time while walking -- just some of the time.

“The 20 to 25 seconds that they are crossing the street is more important than the call or the text.”

She says the golden rule of safety remains the same: look both ways, then again, before crossing the street. 

You are listening to AS IT IS on the Voice of America. I’m June Simms. 

The world's oldest long distance runner has competed in his last race. As Jim Tedder reports, the Indian-born, British man retired from competitive running at the end of last month. 

Fauja Singh completed a ten kilometer race in the Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon on February 24th. The 101 year old runner finished with a time of one hour, 32 minutes, 28 seconds. He announced earlier that it would be the last long distance race of his career. He said he wanted to retire from marathon running while he was still at the top of his game. 

In April of last year, Fauja Singh celebrated his 101st birthday by running in the London Marathon. He broke his own record as the world's oldest marathon runner. He set that record a year earlier when he crossed the finish line at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. 

The Sikh man started running as a way to deal with depression after the death of his wife and one of his sons. He competed in his first marathon at age 89. Since then, he has set several world records for his age group. He credits his success to his love of the sport.

Fauja Singh was a farmer in India for most of his life. He cannot read and speaks only Punjabi. But that has not prevented him from being an inspiration to his fans who have nicknamed him the “Turbaned Tornado” and also the “Turbaned Torpedo.” 

The world’s oldest marathon runner says that while he is retiring from competitive running, he is not hanging up his running shoes. He says he will continue running for the pure pleasure of it and his love of the sport. I’m Jim Tedder.

Well that’s AS IT IS for today. I’m June Simms. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for VOA world news at the beginning of every hour Universal Time.

And tune in again tomorrow for AS IT IS with Kelly Jean Kelly.