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Jan 23, 2014 08:51 AM EST

Study Decodes Text-Walking Body Language

People, who have the habit of texting while walking tend to develop a robot-like posture and are more likely to lose their balance, according to a University of Queensland study. Researchers said that text-walkers are in danger of walking into traffic and train tracks among others. They suggest pedestrians stop aside, type a text and then continue walking once they are done.

"Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, on your mobile phone affects your ability to walk and balance. This may impact the safety of people who text and walk at the same time," researcher Siobhan Schabrun said in a press release.

For the study, the researchers tracked body movements of 26 young men and women while walking in a straight line thrice over a distance of approximately 8.5 m - once without a mobile phone, once while reading a text message and once while typing a message.

They found that participant's body movements was modified when they used their phone. The difference in their posture was more prominent while sending a text than while reading a message.

They further said that when people began texting while walking, they slowed down their pace, went off course and moved their neck less than when reading a message. The participants developed a distinct posture as they tried to concentrate intensely (straining their eyes) on writing the text.

 "We found that people walked with a posture that was robot-like. To keep their eyes steady on the phone, they 'locked' their arms, trunk and head together, all in aid of keeping their phone in their field of vision, so there was less movement between each of their body segments," researcher Siobhan Schabrun said, Daily Mail UK reports.

Previous studies showed that restricted body movements interfere with balancing and people tend to trip or fall. Schabrun is calling for education programs on dangers of text-walking.

 "In recent years, there have been many reports of people involved in traffic accidents, stumbling onto train tracks, into fountains and off piers because they were texting while walking. The number of pedestrian accidents is rising and texting has been blamed," Schabrun said.

Despite such repeated accidents, only few studies have analysed the impact of texting on body language. If more studies concentrate on walking styles adopted while texting, their findings can be used to lower overall accidents.

While a few U.S. states have introduced laws on texting while driving, Fort Lee, a New Jersey town, went further ahead and recently imposed an $85 fine on walkers caught texting. Thomas Ripoli, Fort Lee Police Chief, said that there were 74 accidents involving pedestrians last year while it was just three in 2013, according to The Record's NorthJersey.com.

"It's a big distraction. Pedestrians aren't watching where they are going and they are not aware," Ripoli said, Huffington reports.

Schabrun hopes other American states and countries follow suit.

The study has been published in the Journal PLOS ONE.

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