Home / SCIENCE / The Texting and Walking Dilemma-Science Proves We Can’t or Shouldn’t

The Texting and Walking Dilemma-Science Proves We Can’t or Shouldn’t

In the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One a much needed scientific approach was taken to the texting and walking dilemma.

The publication optimistically titled, “Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety published last week found that there is definite data and real science to back the concern that texting and walking is likely dangerous and poses a serious public safety risk.

texting dangers

Photo By: Oregon Department of Transportation, CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Texting And Walking Is Definitely “Risky”

A phrase that has been coined back in 2012 as TWW (Testing While Walking) was predicted to rise causing injuries to pedestrians. In 2012 there were at least 1,100 emergency room visits where texting and walking were to blame (of course this is an estimated number of people that admitted this detail).

The need for this study in the US is critical for public safety,with the publication citing the statistic that 77% of people all over the world are carrying, glued to and or using a mobile phone at all times.Other statistics site that 82% of Americans 16 years of age have a cell phone.

It is true that besides the obvious known dangers of texting while driving, little acknowledgement has been given seriously to the dangers of walking and texting. A source of embarrassment and comedy, even viral content, if cruel, but it does seem to pose a serious physical threat none the less.

In 2011 there were 1.3 million auto accidents attributed to texting and driving, 23 percent of all auto accidents were to blame on this distracting activity.

walking and talking

Photo credit: dreamstime, Talking on phone woman

This study employed 26 consenting adults who were not disabled, wore comfortable shoes and walked “normally”, the experiments consisted of three trials.

Here’s what they found; that while writing text the participant walked slower, deviated more from a straight line, the head and neck were stiffer. A wider stance was also observed.

Here’s what they concluded; texting or to a lesser extent reading modify gait performance-potentially posing a threat by throwing off our balance systems.

This would be of particular concern in regards to the safety of pedestrians around roads and navigating everyday obstacles your average walker encounters (cliffs, fountains, curbs, poles, manholes, etc.).

This study did not try adding bubble gum into the mix.

Now that we know that our balance, spatial relationship, and vision are definitely compromised, not to mention our attention what do we do with this information?

It is interesting to note that the participants suffered less of these symptoms while reading as opposed to texting, likely the reason there is no law against reading a book while walking.


Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia commons, “texting in traffic” by By Flickr.com user “Mo Riza”, free license. Described as, “A woman reading SMS messages on her mobile phone while standing on a bike in traffic. The photo was taken at at the corner between The Bowery and Delancey Street”.

About Tonya O'Dell

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