Walking The Walk: The Dangers of Walking and Texting

We’ve heard plenty about the dangers of texting while driving, but how often have you watched a pedestrian stumble through a crosswalk because he was trying to text while crossing the street.

The University of Queensland in Australia put volunteers through an experiment where researchers studied people walking normally, reading texts while walking and typing texts while watching.   The results are ugly.

textorThe study used terms like “in-phase motion of the thorax” and “virtual pedestrian environment experience,” but thankfully the excellent website Safety News Alert translated it all into English.   Apparently, the researchers had volunteers walk in a straight line for about 30 feet.   Then the volunteers were asked to walk again while writing or reading texts.   Suffice it to say, texters seemed to wander a bit. It didn’t really make much whether the volunteer was writing or reading texts, they still wanders, causign the report to refer to them as “texting zombies.”

Of more importance to the researchers was the finding that people tended to walk with a stiff-legged gait when texting, making them more prone to trips or falls (or not noticing that the light has changed in an intersection).  Safety News Alert quotes the lead author, Dr. Siobhan Schabrun, as saying, “People walk like robots. They try to keep their head straight so their eyes can stay on the phone. They lock their arms, their trunk and their head together.”

The authors say this is a first of its kind study.  Now science may need to turn its attention to the implications of playing Farmville while walking.

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