Technology-as-a-Hazard (TaaH)


There have been at least 259 selfie-related deaths since 2011.  Deaths and injuries resulting from walking-while-texting are likely even more common than that. In fact, many cities and towns have gone so far as establishing fines for texting in crosswalks. File it all in the  growing “technology-as-a-hazard” category.

Perhaps there was no greater evidence of this burgeoning problem than when London tested padded light posts to prevent walking while texting injuries! That preventive solution never went very far in the UK or anywhere else.

For their part, apps developers are doing their bit to prevent incidents by building another set of eyes into the mobile device. For example Type N’ Walk enables your mobile phone’s camera to display where you’re walking directly on the text messaging screen while in motion. This theoretically permits the walker to continue typing while looking out for cars, curbs or poles.

Perhaps the most obvious technology-related hazard is texting while driving. The latest statistics show that cell phone use while driving caused about 1.5 million car accidents in 2017. One count by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 3,477 deaths and 391,000 people injured in texting while driving in 2015.

Mobile phone producers are becoming sensitive to their responsibility to reduce these incidents and, as such, are installing apps that make it more challenging to text and drive. Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature included in their iOS 11 release seems to be getting some traction in encouraging drivers to put down their phones and concentrate on the road. The app mutes notifications, darkens the text screen, and notifies text senders that you’re unable to respond to messages.

Considering the liability implications, employers are looking seriously at ways of reducing distracted driving incidents. Software as a service provider CellControl allows companies to create policies that eliminate access to: texting while driving, email, handheld calls, games and other inappropriate apps. The platform includes a score card for each driver showing their performance when it comes to avoiding distracted driving.

It doesn’t take walking or driving to experience technology-related hazards. Orthopedic surgeons have documented a full range of hand, back and neck ailments related to these devices, none more disturbing than “Text Claw.” This is a non-medical term that describes all of the finger-cramping and aching muscles that come from constant gaming, scrolling and texting on smartphones. The medical term for it is “cubital tunnel syndrome.”

Most worrying though is the increase in back and neck ailments as a result of long periods of texting and screen watching. “Text Neck” and “Text Back” have become common diagnoses for those who spend inordinate amounts of time texting or gaming. One study showed an increase of these ailments with the obsessive use of Pokemon GO after its launch. Given that the typical head weighs over 10 pounds, long periods of having the head bent over the body axis creates an increased downward pull on the neck and spine. Having the head 2 inches over the center line to read texts or watch the screen can add 30 pounds of pull on the spine and neck.

In addition to neck, spine and fingers any of us who have spent extended periods of time on conference calls with headphones knows the effect on the ear. Whether wearing over-the-ear or in-the-ear buds, the increase in ear aches and infections, and other related ailments like migraines are becoming more prevalent.

So what’s next in technology driven ailments?

Well in addition to the dangers of taking selfies in a precarious position, there is a growing number of incidents of the very trendy “selfie elbow.” Apparently the obsessive selfie-taker experiences many of the same tendon pressures as the well known tennis elbow. Holding the arm out while keeping the camera in position can simulate the mechanics of hitting a tennis ball.

Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that a selfie elbow brace will get you the same sympathy at the cocktail party as compared to an athletic endeavor.


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