The father of cellphones (mobiles) is not alone in recognising the risk these devices pose to pedestrians when their focus is on their phone instead of what is going on around them. As part of the NRSPP Heavy Vehicle Toolbox Talk truck driver interviews, time and again mobile phones emerged as what they saw as the most dangerous behaviour of other road users.
For pedestrians this was the top risk they saw, as people just stare and are focused on their phone. Not only are they blind but they do not see or hear a truck coming towards them, as many have headphones as well.
The “father of the cellphone” says he is “devastated” when he sees people staring at their phones while crossing the street.
“They are out of their minds,” Martin Cooper, a former vice president of Motorola who invented the first cellphone in 1973, told the AFP News Agency in an interview.
The risk of a potential accident, the 94-year old said, may teach them a lesson. “After a few people get run over by cars, they’ll figure it out,” he joked.
Cooper told AFP that we are still at the “mindless staring phase” with our phones. The issue, he said, is that people look at their phones too much.
And of course, that’s dangerous while crossing the street on a cellphone. A 2022 study on how pedestrians use their phones found that 14.4% of pedestrians don’t pay attention to traffic when crossing. Researchers involved in the study called the phenomenon an “emerging road safety issue.”
Cooper’s comment comes 50 years after he made the first phone call with a cellular device from a Manhattan sidewalk in 1973. In 1984, Motorola released the world’s first commercial cellphone known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000, a 10-inch, 2.5-pound device first sold at a whopping $3,995 — or $12,000 today, Cooper told the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month.
Cooper didn’t expect the cellphone would evolve from strictly a talking device to a smart phone that could take photos and videos, order food, and track daily steps, he told the Tribune.
Despite the safety risks, Cooper told the AFP he isn’t worried about the longterm dangers of unfettered cellphone usage. He believes cellphones have the power to boost productivity and improve users’ quality of life.
“The cellphone has now become an extension of the person,” he said.
Cellphones even have the potential to “conquer disease,” and “revolutionize” education and healthcare, he added.
“Each generation is going to be smarter,” he said. “They will learn how to use the cellphone more effectively.”