Walking While Texting Reduces Ability

Walking while texting reduces ability. An Australian study has found that walking while texting reduces an individual’s capacity to maintain their sense of balance, walk in a straight line and walk correctly. While indications of this trait are observed daily in the mall or at a crossway, now there is scientific evidence that the practice is hazardous.

The behavior itself is maddening, even to a passerby. An individual is so engrossed in their smart phone that they literally collide with a passerby, or worse, a telephone pole. Even more severe, they do not notice the street light has turned red and cause a collision. The new study asserts that healthy individuals, who read, text or peruse their smartphones while walking, are less likely to observe their surroundings. They are like a dreamer in another realm, oblivious to the world around them.

WalkingWhile the dangers of texting while driving are well-known, Australia’s University of Queensland researchers have done the first analysis to establish the effect of “gait performance” and kinematics while texting on a cellphone. The study, Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety, published on the Public Library of Science website PLOS ONE, filmed 26 people with each person walking in a line across a distance of approximately 28 feet while undertaking everyday tasks such as reading texts, typing a specific sentence or walking without cellphone distraction.

The subject’s body movements were tracked implementing a “three-dimensional movement analysis system.” Researchers found that walking and texting did affect their movements; reading to a lesser extent. While texting, partakers not only walked slower, but were stiff with robotic movement. In order to keep their phone in view, texting became the priority and their other abilities were undermined. The more repeated and rapid the phone taps, the more off-balance they became, making them more inclined to trip or tumble when faced with an obstacle because they were unlikely to catch themselves.

Co-author of the study and physiotherapist, Dr. Siobhan Scharun, has said that there have been numerous news reports of walking and texting in hazardous situations – fountains, walking off piers or onto railroad tracks – with devastating consequences.

Dr. Beth Ebel, director of the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, found that pedestrians that texted were four times less likely to look up before crossing, and took an average of two seconds longer to cross the street. According to Ebel, that while mobile technology has improved efficiency, it also encroaches into locales “where concentration is required,” like walking across a busy intersection.

In 2013, a Ohio State University study found that 1,500 pedestrians were treated in the nation’s emergency rooms for phone-related injuries while walking. The statistics for this pedestrian behavior have more than doubled from 559 in 2004. College students and teens were found to be the ones most often injured for walking and texting. A search on YouTube alone yields approximately 2 million incidents, from walking into a telephone pole and falling into a mall fountain to fatal accidents such as walking into traffic.

While people may be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, it is time for them to set their phone down when walking, and pay attention. While pedestrians may not think they are walking like a robot, and that they can duel-task, texting is reducing their ability to react; the risk of an accident, from bump to catastrophe, is near certain.

by Dawn Levesque