Study: Texting on a Mobile Phone Makes You Walk Silly

Texting on the hoof leads people to change the way they walk, new research has revealed. While researchers have previously looked at the impact of phone use while on a level surface, they have now explored how pedestrians cope while using their phones and negotiating that common trip-hazard: step.

Injuries from falling over or bumping into things while using a mobile phone are on the rise: in the US at least 1,500 pedestrians were reported to have visited hospital in 2010 alone as a result of such accidents.

"Part of it evolved from walking down the road in the middle of the day," said co-author of the research Matthew Timmis of Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, Essex. "The person in front of me was walking very slowly and weaving, and I thought: it's quite early in the day: is this person intoxicated already?"

When he walked past, Timmis found the person was using their phone.

To explore the impact of phone engagement on walking, the team kitted out 21 participants with a head-mounted eye tracker and motion-analysis sensors, and asked them to walk 5.6 metres, negotiating an obstacle made of fibreboard and a step made of a box on the way.

Participants were asked to go around the course three times without a phone, and repeat while writing a text message, reading a text message or making a call three times, making a total of 12 turns each.

The results, published in the journal Plos One by researchers at Anglia Ruskin and the University of Essex, revealed that fiddling with a phone increased how long people took to complete the task, decreased how often people looked at the step and changed how they walked.

Participants adopted "an increasingly cautious stepping strategy" when using the phone and deviated from a straight path more often. While the effects...

Comments are closed.