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A Cell Phone Risk You May Not Have Considered

I’ve been attending an excellent (sold out) series at the New York Academy of Sciences called “The Science of the Senses.”

A recent night featured the amazing pickpocket/thief/magician/security consultant Apollo Robbins — featured in the above video — and the equally impressive cognitive scientist Christof Koch.

At one point, Koch was talking about the cognitive impairment of cell phones while doing something like driving. And then Robbins chimed in with another hazard I hadn’t previously considered. He noted — and this is a man who knows how to take things off of people — that a person walking along and talking on a cell phone is a red flag to a pickpocket. Why? Robbins’ work, while certainly involving some physical dexterity, is really about redirecting people’s attention. Not simply their eyes, but their entire focus of attention. A person talking on a cell phone has already allocated a good deal of attention to that conversation, is dedicating another good portion to walking down the street, and is thus less likely to notice someone like a pickpocket removing them of their valuables (everything but their cell phone, at least).

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This entry was posted on Friday, March 6th, 2009 at 11:00 am and is filed under Etc., Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “A Cell Phone Risk You May Not Have Considered”

  1. Fritz Says:

    I’m not a bad man or thief, but I think about the potential ease of rolling somebody everytime I see a stranger walking by glued to their phone or lost in the mp3 player. I also turn it around and think about how easy somebody could steal from me or even assault me if I’m distracted while talking on the phone.

  2. aaron Says:

    I think a much more important factor is how cell phones affect the flow of traffic. I suspect that part of the decline in fuel efficiency and increase in congestion (until the economy tanked this year) we had the past several years is due to cell phone use. Cell phone drivers are slower to react to changes at signals, follow other cars less closely, and probably accelerate slower. This decreases fuel economy, decreases the capacity of roads, and causes more stop-and-go driving. Similar to people erroneously reacting to high gas prices by accelerating more slowly and driving slower at non-freeway speeds, below 55mph.

  3. Dana Lee Ling Says:

    Trust me on this one: do not text on a cell phone while running on a narrow, shoulderless, two lane main road.

Leave a Reply

Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

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