Young people are more likely to fall while texting and walking, a study has shown. People who are inclined to text and walk have been advised by scientists to avoid this practice where possible by locking their phones using a similar technology to drivers.
It has also been found that texting pedestrians are more likely to walk into oncoming traffic according to previous studies. Other studies have shown that younger people who have grown up using mobile phones have highly adapted to navigating obstacles.
A group of 50 student texters were studied by experts at the University of New South Wales to see if they had mastered the art of texting while walking. They were invited to walk on a floor with moving tiles to simulate a slipping hazard.
The results showed that texting caused the walkers to slow down and tilt forward. This meant they were more off balance when they slipped and created a greater risk of falling.
Senior author Matthew Brodie, a neuroscientist and engineer at the University of New South Wales Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, said: “On any day it seems as many as 80 per cent of people, both younger and older, may be head down and texting and I wondered: ‘Is this safe?’
“This has made me want to investigate the dangers of texting while walking. I wanted to know if these dangers are real or imagined and to measure the risk in a repeatable way.”
The 50 students were strapped into a safety harness to prevent injury by accidentally falling over. They were recorded by video as they walked over a slippery surface.
Then, the students were asked to go along the walkway either without texting or while typing out “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. The students were only told that they may or may not slip to recreate the uncertainty of daily life, allowing researchers to study how texters and walkers would anticipate and attempt to prevent a potential slip.
While motion data showed that texters tried to be more cautious in response to a threat, this did not counteract a risk of falling. As such, researchers have suggested that phones should be locked using a similar technology to when users are driving. This was reported in the journal Heliyon.