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Do You Walk and Text? Research Shows the Dangers of Distracted Walking

You know better than to text while driving, but what about when walking? Distracted walking accidents are reportedly on the rise. Petextrians — pedestrians who text — are partly to blame.

Pedestrian injuries due to cell phone usage are increasing. As we become ever more reliant on the technology, researchers are focusing on unfocused walking.

Distraction Nation

According to Ohio State University researchers, using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, from 2005 to 2010, the number of cell-phone-related walking injuries more than doubled to 1,500 — even while pedestrian injuries on the whole dropped.

In 2012, University of Washington researchers studied more than 1,100 pedestrians at 20 Seattle intersections. They found that about a third of the people were walking distractedly, i.e. walking while talking, listening to music, or writing email.

Similarly, the Georgia Department of Transportation studied 20 busy intersections in that state and found that nearly half of pedestrians were distracted while crossing the street. Electronics accounted for most of the lack of focus, with 26 percent of people wearing headphones, 15 percent texting, and 13 percent talking on the phone. Six percent were engaged in multiple distractions, such as texting and listing to music.

Multitasking Takes More Time

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to cross the street, so what’s the big deal? Well, researchers in both studies mentioned above found that distracted walkers took one to two seconds longer to cross. They also forgot basics, like looking both ways and making sure they had the light.

The Georgia study noted that the carelessness of the distracted also seems to give more focused folks false confidence. “This may be because they perceived their risk to be lower due to the fact that they were paying attention,” the study’s authors wrote.

A sociologist at William Paterson University observed pedestrians at five busy Manhattan intersections found that one quarter of those who crossed when they had the light were distracted by headphones or cell phones. Meanwhile, one half of the walkers crossing against the light were distracted by technology.

The Manhattan study noted many near-misses, situations where distracted pedestrians were pushed out of the way of an oncoming vehicle by their fellow walkers. Researchers recommended that the city post warning signs telling people to text before stepping off the curb, just as drivers are advised to pull over when making a phone call.

Don’t Be Cellfish

Walking can be a very healthy activity. But not when it ends in injury. And it’s not as healthy when done in conjunction with a phone. Pedestrians who walked with their cell phones experienced less of the health benefits of walking, according to Australian researchers. Focus on the phone changes gait and makes it difficult to walk straight.

That ends up being a problem for all of us. According to Pew Research Center data from 2014, more than half of all adult cell phone users have bumped into something or someone — or have been bumped — due to distracted walking. That rate rises to 71 percent for 18- to 24-year-olds, an age group notorious for attachment to its tech.

So don’t be a cellfish petextrian. Put your phone in your pocket and look both ways when you cross the street. If you are involved in an injury accident for distracted walking, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for assistance.

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