Like an army of zombies left over from an apocalypse or a cheesy horror flick, you see them everywhere – people walking around, absorbed in their mobile phones. They’re texting or checking social media but they’re not paying attention to where they are going.

Tripping on a curb or bumping into a pole might amuse onlookers, but there are real dangers. If one of these distracted walkers wanders into traffic or steps in front of a moving car they risk serious injury or even death.

These zombies now have a name: ‘petextrians’. Pedestrian texters are more focused on their screens than they are on the world around them. But catching a Pokemon or texting an emoji in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly.

A handful of cities across Canada want to curb distracted walking by putting a ban on using a handheld cell phone in busy pedestrian areas like a crosswalk or sidewalks. Last July, Toronto City Council passed a motion to put a ban on using mobile devices “while on any travelled portion of a roadway.” Calgary is looking at similar rules and two city councillors in Vancouver are promoting the idea here.

A recent survey shows that two-thirds of Canadians think this is a good idea. Another study on pedestrian accidents shows a 350% increase between 2004 and 2010 in pedestrians being killed while using their cellphone.

So how do you avoid becoming a petextrian? A few simple steps can save you. If you are walking and using your phone, step to the side and get out of the way of others. Go up against a wall or a building to avoid crashing into someone. And if you’re in an area where there are moving cars, like a crosswalk or parking lot, simply put your phone away. No texting or tweeting in these areas! Because if you’re looking at your phone, you’re not going to see what’s coming at you.

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Michael Slater, K.C.
Michael Slater K.C. is the founding partner of Slater Vecchio. The majority of his practice is confined to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury cases.