Associated Press
A woman listens to her iPod while walking past an Apple billboard in San Francisco, Monday, April 23, 2007.

The following is an editorial from the Scripps Howard News Service:

An ambulance's siren cut through the din of rush-hour traffic and motorists began clearing a lane on busy K Street in Washington, D.C. The emergency vehicle eased into an intersection — only to be stalled by a young guy ambling through the crosswalk, oblivious to the wailing, the flashing lights and appalled onlookers' flailing arms.

The neon-green wires dangling from his ears identified him as a dreaded "podestrian."

The incident occurred a few weeks before the National Transportation Safety Board's call, earlier this month, for states to outlaw cellphone use while driving.

Distracted pedestrians also can pose problems for public safety — though those on foot are more likely to incur the consequences.

Human brains and bodies "are not designed to concentrate on six things at once," Howard Mell, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, told Scripps Howard News Service. "When we're moving around missiles — cars — we need to pay attention."

While no federal agencies collect data on the incidence of injuries and even deaths involving pedestrians distracted by MP3 players and cellphones, anecdotal evidence is mounting.

Mell is a physician with a master's degree in public health and plenty of experience overseeing TriPoint Medical Center emergency rooms in northeast Ohio. Like his colleagues across the country, he has seen pedestrians preoccupied by technology and sometimes treated the results, including bruises, sprains, broken bones or worse.

Such incidents have given rise to legislative efforts in some communities and states — including Arkansas, Illinois and New York — to curb how and when pedestrians use their devices. Most have been unsuccessful, derided as "nanny state" interference.

Elsewhere, public-safety campaigns — by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and AAA Texas, for instance — have pointed up the dangers of distracted ambulation and even bicycling and skating.

But common sense can be in short supply; pedestrians wearing headphones or thumbing keypads still step into traffic. Maybe it's time for public shaming, the equivalent of stocks — perhaps a magnetic field that confines offenders to a corner until they disconnect from a device and re-engage with their surroundings. Is there an app for that?