Earlier this month, a student at the University of Georgia injured her arm after falling two feet. She was texting and walking.
According to “The Red & Black,” UGA’s campus newspaper, the school’s police department received reports of injuries because pedestrians were focusing on their phones instead of where they were going.
Stony Brook researchers Eric M. Lamberg and Lisa M. Muratori, clinical associate professors for the Department of Physical Therapy, co-authored a study on walking and texting in 2012 which found that texting while walking affects one’s speed and direction. Their study assessed a group of 33 men and women in their twenties.
Texting and walking reduced the speed of participants by 33 percent and contributed to a 61 percent increase in deviation from the intended course, which increased the distance they walked by 13 percent.
“We were surprised to find that talking and texting on a cell phone were so disruptive to one’s gait and memory recall of the target location,” Lamberg said in a press release, also noting that the findings were preliminary and that larger studies need to be conducted.
The study, which was published in Gait & Posture, explains, “As the executor must allocate appropriate resources, the increased attentional demands required for texting may lead to errors in the otherwise sub-conscious task of walking.”
The authors wrote, “The gait deviations we found may have significant real-world repercussions. This study took place on a smooth surface with no obstacles. However, the significant deviations suggest participants were distracted to a degree that could impact their safety in the community.”
The article suggests that the deviation can correspond to overstepping a curb or missing environmental cues.
Sophomore biology major Karol Perez admitted that she does text and walk and has tripped while doing so. However, she is trying to be more conscious about it because she sees that people do it too much.
Junior biology major Olga Janiak said that she tends to avoid people while walking and texting, but has walked into signs and tree branches. She explained that this usually happens when she is sending a long message.
Other studies have looked at the effects of texting on pedestrian safety. A study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham indicated that listening to music, talking on the phone or texting puts pedestrians at risk by distracting them from traffic.
An Ohio State University study confirms the risk of injury for pedestrians using cell phones. The study found that pedestrian injuries related to mobile phones were higher for those younger than 31.