Study: Texting While Walking Turns You Into A Robot, A Menace To Society And Yourself

Whenever I’m walking and texting I am fully aware of death glares shot my way by my fellow pedestrians. And I know why — they expect me to not pay attention and bumble right into them, so I try not to text for too long. But you could also be hurting yourself with this ambulatory multi-tasking, say Australian researchers in a new study.

Using movie special-effects technology to capture the movements we make while walking, the University of Queensland researchers say that texting and walking affects your balance and the ability to walk straight. Add in to all that and you can damage your posture while doing the text ‘n’ walk, reports the Wall Street Journal.

“I was checking emails while walking to work this morning,” confessed one of the study’s co-authors. “But it has a serious impact on the safety of people who type or read text while walking.”

Then there are the stories — some of which you’ve probably heard or something like it: A tourist walking off a pier while checking Facebook; not paying attention to your surroundings and walking into traffic. Maybe one time you were asking for tacos on the Internet and got mugged while flashing your phone around. Maybe.

Anyway, the study links the growth of mobile-phone usage to the number of phone-related accidents. The more people tippety tapping and swiping away, the more likely there will be those doing so on the move. Another study recently showed the the number of emergency-room visits connected to using phones while walking doubled to 1,500 between 2005 and 2010.

In the new study, researchers found that subjects walked slower and took shorter steps, especially when typing, and ended up moving around like robots, with locked arms and elbows, said researchers. They then moved their heads more to make up for that weird motion, making their balance not so great.

“In a pedestrian environment, inability to maintain a straight path would be likely to increase potential for collisions, trips and traffic accidents,” said the co-author. “The best thing to do is to step aside and stop, or keep off the phone.”

Some countries are trying to combat this zombie-like phenomenon of shuffling, unaware pedestrians. Hong Kong has subway signs warning passengers to pay attention, while in Singapore officials are blaming the rising number of road deaths on people distracted by their phones at street crossings. New York and Arkansas are among the U.S. states considering banning phone jaywalking.

Can’t Walk the Walk? Stop Texting! [Wall Street Journal]

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