Walking while texting is dangerous. Such a practice has become more common now with the popularity of texting. But this is a dangerous habit best broken because people who walk and text are more likely to get injured and walk in front of a car or onto train tracks. Doing both simultaneously also contributes to odd gait and posture.
A new study published Wednesday by PLOS, a peer-reviewed science publication, followed 26 healthy individuals above age 18, without neurological or musculoskeletal disorders affecting gait and who did not use their mobile phones every day. The researchers from University of Queensland tested the participants by having them walk three times over 28 feet, doing three exercises: walking without a phone, walking while reading a text message and walking while typing a text message. The study showed that texting caused the biggest change in gait, where the participants did not walk in a straight line and slowed down while walking. Because of the concentration required while reading and sending texts, the body locks in on itself to focus on the small phone screen, thus causing the walker to lose his balance.
Stories about people walking into trouble, such as the woman who walked off a pier in Australia while Facebooking on her mobile phone, may seem funny, but the walking and texting habit, called “distracted walking,” is contributing to an inordinate number of pedestrian deaths. Statistics show that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one pedestrian dies every two hours in a traffic accident. Granted, the numbers of deaths involving mobile devices are not counted, but the Department of Transportation wants to focus their funds on distracted walkers because they account for a high number of pedestrian deaths in big cities such as New York City. Walking while texting is dangerous.
The Australian study is not the only study that has studied the problem of walking and texting. Studies conducted in the United States, for example, showed that pedestrians texting or listening to their headphones neglected to look both ways before crossing the intersection and ignored traffic signals. An Ohio State University study examined hospital data that showed that injuries resulting from walking and texting have more than doubled since 2005.
While the solution to this problem might be obvious (stop texting while walking, and if texting, stop walking), the U.S. government is looking for ways to stem “distracted walking” injuries and deaths. Five states failed to pass bills addressing walking and texting, further adding to lawmakers’ frustration. Assemblyman Harvey Munford of Nevada wanted to make it illegal to walk and text while entering a highway, and New Jersey tried to designate the month of September as Distracted Walking Awareness Month. While they can agree that walking while texting is dangerous, lawmakers are just not willing to legislate how citizens live their lives when they make personal choices. The state of Idaho, however, is one state that successfully passed a bill in 2011 where texting in a crosswalk is illegal, and will cost the pedestrian $50 if it’s the first offense.
By Juana Poareo