The dangers of texting while walking

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 11:31 23/01/2014

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Everyone has heard of the dangers of texting and driving, but new research shows texting while walking can also prove hazardous to your health.

The study out of the University of Queensland has unravelled the dangers of texting and walking, with people unable to walk in a straight line while typing a message.

The participants in the study were asked to walk 8.5 metres and type a nine word piece of text.

All of the participants slowed down while typing when compared to walking without a phone, while many also lost their balance and others lost focus of their surroundings.

The most concerning aspect for the researchers was the drifting off a straight line.

"In a pedestrian environment inability to maintain a straight path would be likely to increase potential for collisions, trips and traffic accidents.

"Texting or reading on a mobile phone may pose an additional risk to safety for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road."

The researchers also found 35 per cent of the participants reported previously being injured while texting.

Last year in New Zealand, 35 people made a claim to ACC as a result of being injured while texting.

ACC senior media advisor Stephanie Melville said 90 per cent of those injuries were a result of people tripping, falling or walking into things while texting.

ACC relies on the person claiming to report the reason for the injury so there may be instances where an accident occurred as a result of texting but this detail wasn’t recorded in the accident description on the claim form, Melville said.

In 2007, a woman was hit by a bus in Wellington when distracted using her mobile phone while crossing the street.

There have also been concerns about people listening to music while crossing the road, with a man dying when hit by a bus in Wellington while crossing a street listening to music.

In the United States the problem with texting while walking was even worse.

More than 1000 people every year report to American hospital emergency rooms as a result of injuries while walking and texting, according to multiple studies.

It got so bad that two small towns banned the use of mobile phones while crossing the road, with a US$54 (NZ$65) fine for anyone caught doing so.

It was stepped up another level last year when a Nevada politician put forward a bill making it illegal, state-wide, to cross the road while texting, with a person caught doing it three times fined US$250 (NZ$300). 

The bill was still in the state legislature.

It was not just the road where some dangers can occur, as this man found out when he was so focused on his phone that he nearly walked into the waiting arms of a black bear. 

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- Stuff

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