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Doctors: Heads up, texters

Injuries traced to multitasking users

Giancarlo Yerkes, a 30-year-old advertising employee shown crossing a street in downtown Chicago, admitted he once walked straight into a stop sign while text-messaging and bumped his head.

Giancarlo Yerkes, a 30-year-old advertising employee shown crossing a street in downtown Chicago, admitted he once walked straight into a stop sign while text-messaging and bumped his head.

CHICAGO — The warning came too late for Barack Obama’s adviser: Don’t walk and text at the same time. Obama aide Valerie Jarrett fell off a Chicago curb while her thumbs were flying on her BlackBerry.

“I didn’t see the sidewalk and I twisted my ankle,” Jarrett said. “It was a nice wake-up call for me to be a lot more careful in the future, because I clearly wasn’t paying attention and I should have.”

She got off easy and didn’t need medical attention.

But in an alert issued this week, the American College of Emergency Physicians warns of the danger of more serious accidents involving oblivious texters. The ER doctors cite rising reports across the country of injuries involving text-messaging pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters and motorists.

Most involve scrapes, cuts and sprains from texters who walked into lampposts or walls or tripped over curbs.

In the worst cases, a San Francisco woman was killed by a pickup truck this year when she stepped off a curb while texting, and a Bakersfield, Calif., man was killed last year by a car while crossing the street and texting.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has no national estimate on how common texting-related injuries are. But among the reports it has received: A 15-year-old girl fell off her horse while texting, suffering head and back injuries, and a 13-year-old girl suffered belly, leg and arm burns after texting while cooking noodles.

Dr. James Adams, chairman of emergency medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said he has treated minor injuries in several texters.

“I have to admit that I started a text while I was driving and then I said, ‘This is so stupid,’ so I stopped,” Adams said.

Dr. Patrick Walsh, an emergency physician in Bakersfield, said he is a texter, too, but tries to remind himself to do it intelligently.

“We don’t want to sound like some stern schoolmistress, telling people ‘Don’t text on your cell phone,’ ” Walsh said. “But when you’re texting, look around.”

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