Look up, look down, look around

Every so often you see a news article that catches your eye. One that caught mine recently was “Absorbed smartphone users oblivious to gunman before fatal CA train shooting.” It describes a September incident in which a gunman shot and killed someone on a commuter train and then got off the train and walked home. Later review of video by police shows the suspect brandishing a gun on the train within feet of people who were apparently oblivious to him because they were too absorbed in their mobile devices.

This may be an extreme example, but it is symptomatic of something that seems to be happening to our society at large and certainly here at Case Western Reserve University. In my time here, I have seen people using various devices walk in front of traffic when traffic had a green light, trip and fall over minor obstructions on the pavement and come dangerously close to collisions with other pedestrians and sometimes stationary objects (darn those fast moving trees!).

Since this is a campus safety column, we will not address larger issues of a society in which everyone is increasingly living in their own electric cocoon, but focus on some more pragmatic issues. Pedestrian safety is one— University Circle is a busy place full of cars, ambulances, whizzing bikes and hordes of students moving across campus in herd-like numbers. Keeping one eye on the road (or sidewalk) is a necessity. Officer Mark may brighten your day at the crosswalk, but his primary purpose is to keep you from getting flattened at a busy intersection.

Secondly, being too immersed in devices can keep you from noticing your fellow campus community member who may be getting robbed or be in some other type of distress. Or it can make you a target of someone who notices your lack of attention to what is going on around you. Cell phones and other devices can be vital work saving and communications tools, but don’t allow them to eliminate your awareness of the world around you. So put down the devices and smell the roses (or watch the leaves fall) once in a while— you will be the better (and the safer) for it.

On the Beat is a weekly safety column written by Sergeant Jeffrey Daberko & Officer Mark (The Crossing Guard) Chavis of CWRU PD. Send feedback to this or other columns at policecolumn@case.edu.