Now science has confirmed what we all already knew: Even perfectly-abled pedestrians forget how to walk the second they start using their phones. The University of Bath and Texas A&M University study shows that texting while walking changes your gait.
The study, published on PLOSONE.org, led 30 smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 50, through a course walking normally, walking and texting, and walking and completing a math quiz on an iPhone app. The course contained obstacles that mimicked real world walking environments, such as curbs, steps, and other people. The participants wore sensors that measured their step count, time, frequency, and length, as well as standing time and “barrier clearance,” or how much the person overestimated the height of a stair.
It took participants, on average, five seconds longer to complete the course when engaging with their phones. They also walked slower, took shorter steps, and stopped walking for longer than those who were just freely walking.
Though the researchers found no increased risk of tripping for the walking texters, their protective and unpredictable walking paths is certainly more dangerous for those around them. So what do the researchers recommend you do to protect yourself from all the stop-and-go?
“I wish I could give you permission to swat them on the head,” said Professor Conrad Earnest, who oversaw the study. “But I think the better answer is to just be more mindful that people around you may move unexpectedly and, well, annoy you.”