Bumping into walls.
Falling down stairs.
Stepping into traffic.
It’s happening more often these days and for one overwhelming reason.
People just can’t seem to walk down a street without doing something with their mobile device.
This trend has been exacerbated with the release of the “Pokémon Go” video game.
But experts say people are also getting hurt while texting, listening to music, and calling their friends.
"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 Buffalo in New York, in a 2014 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."
The ‘walking distracted’
Recent studies indicate that the number of accidents involving distracted pedestrians is rising.
Researchers at The Ohio State University say an estimated 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using their cell phones while walking.
That was double the number of such incidents reported in 2005, even though pedestrian injuries overall have decreased.
The study found that people 16 to 25 years of age were most likely to be injured as distracted pedestrians. Most were hurt while talking on their phone rather than texting.
Jehle added those numbers might be conservative because people sometimes won’t admit they were distracted by a mobile device when they are injured.
Jack L. Nasar, Ph.D., a professor and program chair of city and regional programming at Ohio State University, and a co-author of the university’s study, told Healthline in 2014 that people walking and texting 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,” he said.
A separate study from
The “Pokémon Go” phenomenon hasn’t helped matters.
Since the popular video game was launched in early July, there have been a number of weird and even dangerous incidents.
A Wyoming teenager, for example, stumbled over a dead body while she was searching for Pokémon characters to capture.
In Missouri, police say armed robbers lured Pokémon players to isolated spots. Four teenage criminals robbed a dozen game players.
And an old hotel in Arizona that is now a halfway house for dozens of registered sex offenders was a “beacon” for Pokémon players.
This is in addition to the scores of Pokémon players seen in virtually every town, walking across streets with their eyes glued to their mobile devices.
Surgeons, lawmakers concerned
The trend has prompted the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) to launch a campaign against distracted walking.
The organization has devoted a page on its website to the topic.
They also have produced a series of radio and television public service announcements on pedestrian safety entitled “Digital Deadwalkers.”
In addition, the surgeons commissioned a study last year on distracted walking.
There was a lot of “it’s them, not me” in that survey.
The organization reported that 78 percent of adults in the United States feel distracted walking is a “serious” issue, but only 29 percent admitted they are part of the problem.
Along the same lines, 90 percent of study participants said they had seen people walking while talking on phones, but only 37 percent admitted to doing it themselves.
The researchers said millennials aged 18 to 34 were most likely to be injured in distracted walking incidents, and women over the age of 55 were most likely to suffer serious injuries.
This spring, the incidents prompted a New Jersey lawmaker to introduce legislation to punish distracted walkers.
Under Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt’s bill, people who texted while crossing a street would have been slapped with a $50 fine and possible jail time.
Advice for the distracted
The distracted walking trend has also prompted a surge of safety tips.
On the AAOS website, the surgeons urge pedestrians to stay “safe and alert,” and not overestimate their ability to be aware of their surroundings while focused on a mobile device.
The surgeons recommend that people check the streets when they step off a curb. They also told pedestrians not to jaywalk and to keep headphone volumes low so they can still hear “street noise.”
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.”
Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted on March 10, 2014 and updated on July 29, 2016 by David Mills.