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Texting while walking dangerous : study confirms
Texting while walking dangerous

Texting while walking dangerous : study confirms

Texting can make you drive like a drunk. Now a new study shows that texting can also make you walk like a robot.

Researchers found that healthy people who read or send texts while hoofing it show subtle but potentially hazardous changes to their gait. As pedestrians busily tap and flick, they swerve more, walk more slowly and move their heads, arms and torsos in a stiff, graceless fashion that makes them more prone to falling when confronted with an obstacle.

One of the study’s authors, Dr Siobhan Schabrun, said the research released today showed that in a pedestrian environment the inability of texters to maintain their balance or walk in a straight path “may impact the safety of people who text and walk at the same time”.

The study in the scientific journal PLOS One said the dangers of texting while driving had received considerable interest but attention had only recently shifted to safety risks associated with texting while walking.

It showed that people who texted while crossing the street in a virtual pedestrian environment were more likely to be distracted and experienced more hits by motor vehicles.

It also found that using the email function on a mobile phone, which employs similar cognitive and manual demands as texting, reduces gait velocity, stride length and stance phase during walking.

“These findings, coupled with a sharp increase in the number of pedestrians injured while talking or texting on a mobile phone since 2006, have led to bans on texting while walking in some towns in the United States.”

The researchers had 26 people walking at a comfortable pace in a straight line over a distance of approximately 8.5 m while doing one of three tasks: walking without the use of a phone, reading text on a mobile phone, or typing text on a mobile phone.

The body’s movement was evaluated using a three-dimensional movement analysis system.

NZTA spokesman Anthony Firth said its statistics showed that five pedestrians who were killed between 2009 and 2013 were distracted by devices, that include cellphones, at the time.

A further 34 others suffered serious injuries.

AA communications manager Mike Noon said there was a red light-running epidemic in New Zealand so the research findings were not unexpected.

“Headphones and music is also an issue as it removes one of your senses – hearing – that could alert you to danger or a vehicle coming.”


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