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The dangers of SMSing

A California train engineer who was sending and receiving SMSs was blamed last month for causing one of the worst railroad crashes in United States history that killed 25 people.

Despite such risks, many Americans send and receive SMSs on mobile email devices in dangerous situations, according to a survey released on Tuesday that shows 77% have used such a device while driving a moving car.

Forty-one percent said they had used a mobile email device such as a BlackBerry while skiing, on horseback or riding a bicycle, said the survey commissioned by Neverfail, an Austin, Texas-based software company that provides protection for business data, operations and applications.

The engineer of a crowded commuter train was SMSing from his cellphone seconds before his train skipped a red light and collided with a freight train near Los Angeles in September, killing 25 people, investigators found.

The Neverfail survey says the proportion of the corporate work force using company-supplied mobile devices will grow to nearly 40% by 2010 from just less than one-quarter now.

In the economic crisis, workers may feel squeezed and under pressure to use their mobile devices even more, said Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research of Black Diamond, Washington, which conducted the survey for Neverfail.

”People are going to have to do more than they are doing now,” he said. ”As people get laid off, the responsibilities of the company don’t go away, but the people to do the work do.”

Also, 11% of respondents said they had used such a device during a romantic moment, and 79% said they had used one in the bathroom.

Eighteen percent had used one during a wedding, 16% during a funeral or memorial service and 37% during a graduation, the survey found.

The online survey was conducted from August 4 to 26 among 148 US adults. The margin of error varied for each question but averaged plus or minus five percentage points.

Along the same topic, earlier this year the American College of Emergency Medicine warned people not to SMS while walking, skating, riding a bicycle or driving. It said its members were noticing a rise in injuries and deaths related to sending SMSs at inappropriate times.

A survey last year by the AAA travel and motorist group found nearly half of US teenagers sent SMSs while driving.

In New York, a state legislator has proposed a Bill to combat so-called ”iPod oblivion” and fine pedestrians for crossing city streets while wearing portable media players. — Reuters

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