I have seen a total of approximately one minute of comedian Rick Mercer’s TV show and it was thirteen years ago – but that video clip has stuck with me since then.

Wind the clock back to 2006. The world was yet to see the iPhone. 4G was still a couple of years away and some locations still didn’t have 3G. Users did not complain about slow download speeds though because the price of data was so incredibly high that you could go broke downloading a photo!

And the king of the modern hip and trendy professional was the Blackberry. Imagine a device that allowed you to send and receive e-mail, browse the Web, send texts with a full qwerty keyboard but still small enough to lose in your handbag. Better still they had an incredibly sophisticated worldwide server arrangement that compressed data and allowed a fixed monthly fee for unlimited Blackberry data.

People were so committed to their Blackberry devices (me included) that comedians would parody Blackberry users.

Enter Rick Mercer. In 2006 he produced a one minute parody advertisement for a device he called the ‘Blackberry Helmet’ made of ‘reinforced polymer to protect the skull of the mobile professional on the go.’ My favourite part was the ‘camera that broadcasts a picture of what’s in front of you to your Blackberry so you can always be looking at your Blackberry.’

All this time I just thought that Rick Mercer was a comedian but it turns out he is a visionary and a safety activist.

Fast forward to today and pedestrian injuries are skyrocketing – mainly due to a phenomenon known as ‘distracted walking.’ In data from the US, pedestrian deaths have risen 41 per cent since 2008 with 6,227 deaths last year. That is a staggering 16 per cent of all traffic fatalities. Not all of these are due to users having their heads buried in a mobile, but the increase has been largely blamed on distracted walkers. So much so that various lawmakers in the US have started to introduce fines. Obviously the risk of death is not a large enough deterrent so the legislators have had to look to something more significant than death – money!

Fort Lee has banned texting while walking – $85 ticket. Honolulu will only hit you with a $15 fine for looking at your phone while crossing a street but the fine jumps to $99 for multiple violations. Stamford will fine you not for just texting and walking but also listening to music using headphones while crossing the street. The city that never sleeps may become the city that never texts with New York set to impose a $25 fine for first-time offenders of crossing the street while using their phone but, as with Honolulu, the fine jumps significantly if you don’t learn from being booked once. A repeat offence will cost you $250.

In London it seemed a little crass to go around fining people for using their phones so they took a more polite option – by padding the lampposts to reduce the injuries for people who inevitably had their head down tending to something more important than looking where they were headed.

Back to comedian, no, visionary, Rick Mercer. Maybe a protective helmet with a built-in camera and some added sensors isn’t such a bad idea after all. Put a patent on it Rick. The perfect present for the millennial that has everything – a proactive device to try and avoid the accident combined with protection to reduce injuries when the accident inevitably occurs.

Tell me if you text and walk at ask@techtalk.digital

Mathew Dickerson

Scroll to Top