Distracted texting, Facebook use blamed for car accidents — and walking off piers

By The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — A tourist from Taiwan had to be rescued by police after walking off a pier while browsing Facebook on her phone.

She was still holding the phone when rescued.

She was treated and released at a local hospital.

Witnesses summoned police after the woman, in her mid-30s, plummeted from the pier into the icy waters of Port Phillip Bay. She was in the water for about 20 minutes.

“She was still out in the water lying on her back in a floating position because she told us later that she couldn't swim,” Senior Constable Dean Kelly said.

“She still had her mobile phone in her hand and initially she apologized and said sorry.”

Kelly added:

“With Facebook, or social media in general as far as we're concerned, if you're anywhere near the water just pay attention,” Kelly said. “Especially if you can't swim.”

Other accidents

Distracted texting has been blamed for a growing number of serious car accidents and pedestrian injuries, as well as numerous everyday mishaps.

Last March, a Michigan woman who was texting was rescued after she tripped and fell backward off a pier into Lake Michigan.

Her husband and a bystander jumped in after her.

They helped her stay afloat until emergency responders arrived a few minutes later.

“I can't pride stand in my way of warning other people to not drive and text or walk and text,” she said afterwards. “It can be dangerous.”

In 2011, a Pennsylvania woman, Cathy Marrero, became an Internet sensation after she accidentally fell into the fountain of a shopping mall while texting on her phone.

She casually got up, retrieved the cellphone, climbed out, looked around and walked away.

A security-camera video of Marrero's incident was posted to YouTube and has been viewed more than 4.3 million times.

Washington and 12 other states have banned any kind of hand-held cell phone use while driving.

For drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes nationally, 21 percent of the drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The number of people, including drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, killed in distraction-affected crashes was 3,328 in 2012, with an estimated 421,000 people injured, the NHTSA said.

A study using data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System found that mostly white males between the ages of 25 and 64 accounted for the distracted driving that ultimately led to pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

The number of pedestrians killed by distracted driving reached 500 in 2010, up from 344 in 2005.

The number of bicyclists killed, meanwhile, rose 30 percent, from 56 in 2005 to 73 in 2010. Half of those deaths occurred during daytime hours.

NHTSA officials estimate that a any given daylight moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.

Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent at 55 mph of driving blind for the length of a football field.

Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use, the NHTSA added.

A train engineer was sending and receiving text messages seconds before his crowded commuter train skipped a red light and collided head-on with a freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., in 2008, killing 25 people and injuring 135.

Last modified: January 05. 2014 4:52PM
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