Texting While Walking

Bumping into walls. Falling down stairs. Tripping over clutter. Stepping into traffic. These are just some of the many accidents that can occur if you text while walking.

"When texting, you're not as in control with the complex actions of walking," said Dr. Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Baffalo in New York, in a press release. "While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can't see the path in front of you."

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Many Injuries Go Unreported

Tens of thousands of pedestrians are treated in emergency rooms across the nation each year, according to Jehle, who is also an attending physician at Erie County Medical Center. He believes that as many as 10 percent of those visits result from accidents involving cell phones.

What’s more, the number of injuries caused by texting and walking may be higher than official figures indicate, since people are embarrassed to admit that they were injured while texting, says Jehle.

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Noting that, historically, pedestrian accidents have most affected children, the intoxicated, or the elderly, Jehle added that phone-related injuries, which have soared over the past 10 years, coincide with an increase in the use of smartphones—not only for texting but also for using social sites or checking emails.

Jehle pointed to an Ohio State University study, which found that the number of pedestrian ER visits for injuries related to cell phones tripled between 2004 and 2010, even though the total number of pedestrian injuries dropped during that period. The study also found that adults under 30, mainly those between the ages of 16 and 25, are most at risk for cell-phone related injuries while walking.

A Danger to Others

Study co-author Jack L. Nasar, Ph.D., professor and Ph.D. program chair of city and regional programming at Ohio State University, told Healthline that texters who do so while walking also pose a hazard to other people.

“Yes they are a hazard to themselves and others, as their distraction makes it more likely that they may walk into someone else and knock them over. One reporter who interviewed me told me that she was knocked over and injured by someone texting who bumped into her,” he said.

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A separate study from Stony Brook University showed that when people used their cell phones while walking, they were 61 percent more likely to veer off course and 13 percent more likely to overshoot their target than when they were not distracted.

Teach Your Children Well

While Jehle recommends that pedestrians keep their eyes off of their phones until they reach their destination, he advises those who aren't willing to stop texting while walking to use mobile applications that text via voice command, or to use the phone's camera to display the approaching streetscape while they text.

Nasar said, “If you must talk or text, pull out of the stream of pedestrian traffic and stop walking while doing it. If you're a parent, just as you teach your children to look both ways before crossing a street, teach your children not to use their mobile devices while walking or driving.”