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Texters beware! Stop texting while walking
June 11, 2015 | 6:29 PM
by Nick Bliton / The New York Times News Service
 
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My New Year's resolution for 2015 is not going to be focused on eating healthier or to start going to the gym every day of the week or even to save more and spend less. Those challenges are easy compared with a goal I'm setting for myself.

In 2015, I'm going to stop texting while walking.

The realisation that I may have a problem (along with a lot of other people) hit me smack in the face, literally, a few weeks ago when I was strolling through Kennedy International Airport, avoiding obstacles with my peripheral vision as I clambered out a text message. Without any warning (as I couldn't actually see), I was involved in a head-on collision with another man who was also texting while walking.

The thud sent both of us off balance and we almost fell. As we both regained our footing, we looked at each other with a sense of disgust and embarrassment.



Adding to the poignancy of the incident was the realisation that no one around us had seen our accident because, as I soon realised, they were walking and texting, too. If it weren't for the gadgets in our hands, we might have looked like extras from The Walking Dead.

As a society, we now spend almost half of our waking hours looking at screens, according to numerous reports. People have admitted to using their smartphone in meetings and even on the toilet. And according to a 2013 research report compiled by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 70 per cent of people in the United States admit to texting and walking.



"So much attention has been paid, and rightly so, to distracted driving that we have ignored the fact that distracted walking and crossing can be just as risky," David Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual, wrote in the report.

YouTube is home to thousands of compilation videos of epic texting-and-walking fails. Like the people who slam into glass doors, closed elevators and parked cars. The zombies who head-butt streetlight poles and phone booths. Or the office workers who stumble down a flight of stairs, or feel the other side of a cubicle wall.

While it's easy to LOL at these videos, texting and walking is inconceivably rude. The last few benevolent human beings on earth who are just trying to make it down the street are forced to move out of the way for thousands of inconsiderate people — all because we can't put our phone away for 15 seconds?

Beyond the thoughtlessness of walking texters, there are the safety problems.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted pedestrians are involved in thousands of accidents and even fatalities each year. Dr. Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo in New York, estimates that of those tens of thousands of pedestrian-related emergency room visits, 10 per cent are a result of texting while walking. People end up with broken legs and concussions.

This year, officials in the city of Chongqing, China, created a 100-foot stretch of pavement with pictures of cellphones painted on the ground, that it designated as a walking while texting pathway. While people in the United States seemed to look across the pond with envy at this advancement, officials in China said the whole point of the exercise was to remind people that "it is best not to play with your phone while walking."

If you're one of the people who admit to texting and walking but pride yourself on being an expert at this task, there is lot of research that shows you're actually not.

A study published earlier this year in the medical journal PLOS One found that walking and using your smartphone at the same time affects people's posture and balance, causing them to swerve and walk slower. As a result, researchers found, texting and walking can cause accidents, "including falls, trips and collisions."

Jack Nasar, an Ohio State University professor, led a study that found the number of people who end up in emergency rooms each year due to cellphone-related injuries more than doubled from 2005 to 2010. Nasar also found that those most likely to end up harmed are actually the youngest, with people ages 16-25 being injured the most.

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