It’s a warning shot to those who insist on wandering the streets staring at their smartphones.
It’s not surprising that texting while walking makes you fall faster.
Researchers asked 50 young adults to walk on a tiled path, which sometimes had a sliding tile that allowed them to slip.
They did this either without texting or while typing the phrase “The fast brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” into their phone without predictive text.
Texting was found to increase the risk of accidental falls in the study volunteers, who slipped but wore a safety harness to prevent them from actually falling to the ground.
The finding that texting pedestrians are at risk of falling may seem obvious, but motion sensors attached to each person provided insight into why texting while walking might be such a bad idea.
Researchers asked 50 young adults to walk on a tiled path, which sometimes had a sliding tile that allowed them to slip. Texting was found to increase the risk of accidental falls in the study volunteers, who wore a safety harness to prevent them from actually falling to the floor
The study attached motion sensors to each person’s head, torso, pelvis and feet to track their balance (graphs above). They were asked to walk along the normal tiled walkway, once telling them there was no danger of slipping, and two more times, warning that they may or may not slip
Previous studies have shown that texting pedestrians are more likely to collide with other people and cross the road into oncoming traffic
When people texted, their gait was less stable and they were less able to regain their balance.
The study authors suggest that it could be helpful for cell phones to have a “texting lock” that prevents people from typing on their devices when walking in areas where they might trip, such as roadside footpaths.
“Every day it seems that as many as 80 percent of people, both younger and older, are texting with their heads down,” said neuroscientist and engineer Matthew Brodie, the study’s lead author and a senior lecturer at the University. of New South Wales in Australia. “I was wondering, is this safe?”
“This has led me to want to explore the dangers of texting while walking,” Brodie said.
“I wanted to know if these dangers are real or imagined, and measure the risk in a repeatable way.”
The study attached motion sensors to each person’s head, torso, pelvis and feet.
They were asked to walk on the normal tiled walkway as they were told there was no risk of slipping.
Then they walked past it twice, each time warned that they might or might not slip.
In one of these cases, the warning was true, because the tile was modified to slide out of place.
These three walking experiments were performed on people both when they were texting and when they weren’t.
When people were texting and slipped on the walkway, their torsos swayed more—probably because they slid backwards from leaning over their phones.
Walking was also found to decrease texting speed and accuracy by about half on only moderately risky walks, compared to the typing they achieved while seated (Chart A on the left). Walking speed was also reduced by texting, based on their study (graph B right)
This can make it more difficult to restore balance.
When walking normally, when slipping, and when slipping, people appeared to have a less stable head, trunk and pelvis while texting.
The motion data shows that texting participants tried to be more careful in response to the threat of slipping, such as walking more slowly and spending more time with both feet on the ground.
But unfortunately, this caution didn’t seem to counteract their fall risk.
If the research isn’t enough to yank some people off their phones, the finding that texts are more likely to go wrong when people send them on foot may have more impact.
According to the study published in the journal Heliyon, walking was found to decrease the accuracy of texters compared to typing they achieved while sitting.
Previous studies have shown that texting pedestrians are more likely to collide with other people and cross the road into oncoming traffic.