Friends Don’t Let Friends Text And Walk: Distracted Walking Is On The Rise

In this season of mall-going and power-shopping, it behooves us to remember that texting and walking don’t mix. In fact, according to a study in Injury Prevention, one in three walkers will wander into crosswalks, down sidewalks, and in crowds while looking at their phones, resulting in some of the 4,000 pedestrian fatalities that occur each year.

The study, produced in Seattle by Leah Thompson, Frederick Rivara, Rajiv Ayyagari, and Beth Ebel of the University of Washington, studied 20 “high-risk” intersections in the city. They watched as people moseyed, meandered, and lolly-gagged, noting whether they were using digital devices. Of the 1,102 pedestrians studied, the team noted that:

Nearly one-third (29.8%) of all pedestrians performed a distracting activity while crossing. Distractions included listening to music (11.2%), text messaging (7.3%) and using a handheld phone (6.2%). Text messaging, mobile phone use and talking with a companion increased crossing time. Texting pedestrians took 1.87 additional seconds (18.0%) to cross the average intersection (3.4 lanes), compared to undistracted pedestrians. Texting pedestrians were 3.9 times more likely than undistracted pedestrians to display at least 1 unsafe crossing behaviour (disobeying the lights, crossing mid-intersection, or failing to look both ways). Pedestrians listening to music walked more than half a second (0.54) faster across the average intersection than undistracted pedestrians.

While I would argue that listening to music while walking is hardly a distraction (unless it’s music by the dreamy Michael Buble), the fact that many of the slowest saunterers were text-walkers is infuriating but the fact that they ignore nights or fail to look both ways suggests a certain level of potential natural selection that gives me hope.

As a person who pulls over – both while driving or walking – when taking calls and texting on the road/sidewalk, I feel we should all pay a bit more attention when we cross the street. Or don’t and be a TRFIC F8aliti LOL!;).