Texting While Walking Changes Pace, Makes You Look Drunk

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

People who text and walk at the same time "weave along street in a similar way to drunks," annoying other pedestrians in the process, The New Zealand Herald reported.  

Researchers at Texas A&M University and their colleagues from the University of Bath found that people who text while navigating city sidewalks walk slower and have a reduced ability to walk in a straight line, Huffington Post reported. Personal injury attorneys point out that many teens are walking while using their phones which can greatly increase the risk of teen death.

"We hypothesized that more people would trip,"  Conrad Earnest, an exercise scientist at Texas A&M University, told NPR. "But nobody tripped and that's surprising; people actually slowed down and engaged in a more protective or cautious walking pattern."

For the study, researchers examined the effect of texting and walking while being cognitively distracted and negotiating curbs and other common pedestrian obstacles. They recruited 30 people between the ages of 18 and 50 years old and had them complete three randomized, walking tasks through an obstacle course while: (1) walking normally, (2) texting and walking, and (3) texting and walking while being cognitively distracted with a math test.

The researchers then analyzed the walkers gait using a three-dimensional motion analysis system and modeled each task to assess differences between each trial.

They found that participants took significantly longer to complete the course while texting and being cognitively distracted compared to just walking. Texting while being cognitively distracted also increased obstacle clearance, step frequency, and decreased ability to walk in a straight line.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that when faced with cognitive challenges, people decrease their walking speed to avoid accidents.

Researchers suggest this study group may be more familiar with walking while interacting with mobile phones and that further research may be needed to examine older participants, who may be at a greater risk of tripping with such walking deviations.

The findings are detailed in the  open-access journal PLOS ONE.

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