Walk down major avenue in Manhattan or across a highly traveled college corridor at peak periods and it is guaranteed people passed will have cell phones in hand or near by with a blue tooth in their ear. While the cacophony of conversations can be annoying enough, odds are several of the walkers will not be talkers; they will be texting, emailing or posting something while walking. Most agree that texting while walking is dangerous, but they deny they doing it, according to research efforts.
Distracted walking is fast becoming a problem like distracted driving. A new study conducted by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) indicates that 78 percent of American adults think it is a “serious” issue (and annoying). Previous research has shown that someone focusing on a cell phone is 48 percent more likely to walk unsafely into traffic, and that texting while walking decreases someone’s ability to walk in a straight line and maintain their pace.
While most people acknowledge that distracted pedestrians (sometimes referred to as mobile or digital deadwalkers) are more prone to being in or causing accidents, few admit that they are actually part of the problem. The AAOS study found that 74 percent of U.S. adults say “other people” engage in distracted, dangerous behaviors like texting or playing with their phones while walking. However, only 29 percent of them admit that they do it themselves.
The data shows that 26 percent of the 6,000 people surveyed (over 2,000 nationally and another 4,000 in select large cities, say that they have been in a distracted walking incident (bumping into someone or something, tripping, falling, being hit by a moving vehicle, etc.). That implies that nearly all of the 29 percent who admitted they do interact with their phone while walking have had problems – or others are clearly not admitting they are part of the problem!
The AAOS research is not the only evidence. A study conducted by Jack Nasar, a city and regional planner who is a professor emeritus at Ohio State University, found in 2008 that pedestrians who are using their cellphones are 48 percent more likely to walk unsafely into traffic. A 2012 research effort showed that texting walkers are 61 percent more likely to stray off their course than those without such distractions. That has led people to get injured by falling into fountains, tripping over train tracks and bumping into street vendors or light poles.
To address the growing problem, the AAOS is urging people to realize that texting while walking and other distractions for those on the move are a serious problem. Alan Hilibrand, MD, an AAOS spokesman, explained, “Today, the dangers of the ‘digital deadwalker’ are growing with more and more pedestrians falling down stairs, tripping over curbs, bumping into other walkers, or stepping into traffic causing a rising number of injuries — from scrapes and bruises to sprains and fractures.”
They encourage people to not deny that the problem and danger of texting while walking exists. Their advise is to look ahead when walking to see the potential obstacles, other people and traffic. If it really is necessary to start typing or look and read something on a phone, step out of the way of others.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Distracted walking: A serious issue for you, not me
NPR: Texting While Walking: Are You Cautious Or Clueless?
Bustle: People Who Are Distracted Walking Blame Everyone Else For Being Distracted, According To Study
NY1: Study: Many NYers Are Distracted Walkers, Few Admit it
Photo courtesy of Pexels, used under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.