“I was walking down the street and a guy texting suddenly veered toward me, I had to jump out of the way just to avoid a major accident!” Sound familiar? These days, traveling by foot is no walk in the park. On top of avoiding distracted drivers, there are “distracted walkers” to watch out for.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), 78 percent of Americans feel distracted walking is a “serious” issue. Texting or talking on smartphones while walking is not healthy for you or the people you run into.
As many as four out of 10 Americans say they have witnessed a distracted walker accident. From potholes and ladders to strollers and elders, 26 percent of Americans say they have been in a distracted walking incident themselves. The dangers are clear; distracted walking needs to stop.
Studies say “no” to distracted walking
Research supports saying “no” to texting or talking on your phone while walking. Texting and walking leads to navigational errors; you don’t always know where you’re going! Both texting and talking on the phone while walking lead to a slower gait and may compromise safety, according to research by Eric M. Lamberg and Lisa M. Muratori at Stony Brook University in New York.
Distracted texters are very similar to distracted drivers. A big difference is that texting while driving is against the law. Should texting while walking be against the law also, at least in crowded places?
We certainly support common sense in this matter, as well as being responsible for our actions. We all have a lot of responsibilities, and texting while walking may save a few seconds of time, but is it worth annoying or injuring others?
Distracted walkers cause injuries
Unfortunately, this problem is getting bigger, and people are getting hurt. Distracted walkers can cause accidents, injuries and even death.
A study looking at 2004–2010 emergency room records verified the growth of this problem. The study in the Journal of Accident, Analysis and Prevention showed an increase in emergency room pedestrian injuries related to mobile phone use. Pedestrian injuries from distracted mobile phone walkers increased, even though overall pedestrian injuries decreased. As smartphone use becomes more common, distracted walking will continue to rise. As responsible parents, we also need to educate our kids on the hazards of distracted walking, as well as teaching basic pedestrian safety.
We feel the message is pretty clear here; be present in the moment and aware of what is going on around you. Disconnect from that smartphone while walking.
The benefits of being present
Keanu Reeves said, “The simple act of paying attention can take you a long, long way.” Paying attention, or in this case, focusing your attention on your walk, is a healthier way to live.
In most cases, we believe that multitasking is not healthy. Being mindful of the moment is a better way to live. Of course, this applies to the dual-tasking of distracted walkers.
Research also supports being present in the moment as a healthier choice. Dr. Daniel Gilbert, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, also known as a happiness researcher, investigated the effects of mind wandering on emotional health.
Dr. Gilbert, developed an app for iPhone users so that a large number of people could report on thoughts, feelings, and actions during their daily activities. The use of the app allowed for a broad reach — 5,000 people from 83 countries, aged 18 to 88, reported on their daily life.
Samples from 2,250 adults were analyzed to investigate whether mind wandering comes at an emotional cost. The study concluded that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind” and that thinking about something other than what you are currently doing does, in fact, come at an emotional cost.
So, distracted living, whether walking, driving, working or playing, comes with more risks than we might have thought. For your own sake and for everyone around you, put that smartphone away while walking.
Nikki Walsh is a freelance writer and mom of two kids living in Southern California. She holds an MBA in marketing from University of California, Irvine and a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from UCSD. She has been practicing Kelee meditation for 19 years. When she is not writing she can be found out and about having fun with her kids.