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Smartphones: Why do we put our safety at risk?

We know we should be focused on driving, or the traffic as we attempt to cross the street.  We should be paying attention to the person standing next to us on public transportation as we text away, but that phone has its hooks into us and we can’t put it away.

You have all heard about drivers getting into accidents because a text or a phone call distracts them. Illinois has a new law on texting and driving which you can read more about in the Chicago Tribune

Numerous articles have been written describing people being attacked on the street while they are talking or texting on their smartphones.

How many times have you seen pedestrians with cell phone in hand walking into the street totally oblivious to the cars heading their way?

Reports of public transportation passengers being mugged for their i-Phones are constantly in the headlines. Even after hearing story after story about how we put ourselves at risk when we use our phones, we just can’t seem to leave it in our pocket.

What is it that makes us pull out that phone as soon as we hear it ring or feel it vibrate though we may be putting ourselves at risk?

I do think it’s a kind of Pavlovian response, a primitive response,” said Nicholas Carr, a writer based in Boulder, Colo., who explores this phenomenon in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” “The sense that there might be a message out there for us is kind of hard to resist. In all sorts of situations people find it harder and harder not to glance at their smartphone.

This is not a good thing.  We should be using all of our senses to maintain awareness of what is happening around us.

When you are driving your car and trying to read a text message you are not only putting yourself at risk, but also the lives of other motorists and pedestrians.

Carr has more to say on the subject. “There are studies about the craving we have for new information. It’s pretty clear that when we get a new little piece of information, our brains release some dopamine — which is the neurotransmitter chemical that is how the brain encourages us to do things; it’s also the chemical implicated in most addictions. And as you get rewarded by that kind of pleasure of getting a new piece of information, you want to repeat that. … There is something very deep and very primitive in our minds that wants us to gather every little bit of information around us.”

The problem is that the information smartphones help us gather usually have nothing to do with our immediate personal safety. It distracts us from noticing a predator waiting to pounce, or the driver who decides to speed through the intersection, while we are in the cross walk taking a quick look at our phones.

Now you know the dangers, which means you can do something about it.  Start retraining yourself to use your smartphone instead of letting it use you.

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your child’s high school, college, business, or organization contact me at

Thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students have learned how to improve their personal and situational awareness and to physically defend themselves using a wide variety of Martial Arts techniques.

Ed Kress
For over 35 years Ed Kress has been an instructor and student at the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts, named "Best Overall Martial Arts School” worldwide by Black Belt Magazine. Master Fred Degerberg awarded Ed his 7th degree Black Belt in 2015. Growing up on Chicago’s Southside, Ed learned early in life to pay attention to his surroundings in order to avoid potentially dangerous people and situations. Along with local law enforcement officers and directors of campus security, Ed has developed a program which focuses on teaching personal safety on the streets, and as it relates to the high school and college experience. Ed has trained thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students to improve their personal and situational awareness and, when necessary, how to physically defend themselves using their brains as well as their bodies. Ed began his martial arts career when he started wrestling in 8th grade, taking 1st place in the Chicago Park District City Championships. He later wrestled varsity at Mendel Catholic High School where he was a Chicago Catholic League Conference Champion. During his college career at North Park University he was a Conference Champion and 2-time NCAA Div 3 national qualifier. He was on his way to qualifying for the 3rd time when a neck injury ended his college career. His record that year was 17 - 0. He continues to wrestle as Head Freshman Wrestling Coach at Loyola Academy. A position he has held since 2004.

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