As smartphones become more prevalent around the world, people have a tendency to use them even in dangerous situations. According to data
from the Institute of Highway Safety, texting while driving results in 11 teenage deaths every day, making it obvious that using a phone while operating a vehicle is a potentially deadly activity. Now, a new study has shown that texting while walking is also perilous.
Researchers with the University of Queensland in Australia have found that trips and falls are much more likely to occur when someone is preoccupied with his phone while attempting to walk. On any given day, dozens of people are likely to be using their phones while they're walking on the sidewalks. And with such proximity to moving cars, texting while walking can also cause serious harm.
The Worst: Texting
In their study of 26 individuals, the researchers found that although both texting and reading a text affect walking, typing a message is worse. Much of the blame stems from the posture that a person must adopt when trying to use his phone while walking. When the participants used phones, they walked with "greater absolute lateral foot position from one stride to the next; slower speed; greater rotation range of motion (ROM) of the head with respect to global space; [and] the head held in a flexed position," according to the study.
Once individuals were instructed to compose texts, they became even stiffer, which the researchers say is one of the primary causes of falling. "While writing text, participants walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and used less neck ROM than reading text," according to the study.
Bad posture is not the only reason people who text and walk can end up falling or bumping into other people, but the researchers do feel that it is one of the primary causes. Another study from 2012 found similar results, as researchers with the University of Washington noticed that people who were texting and walking were more likely to disobey traffic lights and not pay attention to the things around them.
A Dangerous Trend
Between the growth in smartphones and the emerging wearable tech market, researchers expect this dangerous trend to continue, at least for the foreseeable future.
We caught up with Jack Nasar, a professor at Ohio State University, to get his opinion on the trend and whether or not wearable technologies will make it worse or actually help people pay more attention to their surroundings. "I would expect the trend to increase, and believe (though I haven't tested it yet) that new technologies such as Google Glass could make things worse," he said.
Even though it seems obvious that texting would impair one's ability to walk correctly, talking seems to have an effect as well, according to Nasar. "We also noticed, though did not tabulate it, that people talking on mobile phones tended to swerve off the path (as do drivers on cell phones), while people just holding the phone by their side but not talking, did not," he said.