Don’t Walk and Text

(Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation)

Our motto has always been “friends don’t let friends walk drunk.” We might have to add texting to that list. A new paper from BMJ Group shows that walking and texting is really not a good idea. The study looked at more than 1,000 pedestrians in Seattle, and found texting to be a particularly troublesome distraction:

Texters took almost two seconds (18%) longer to cross the average junction of three to four lanes than those who weren’t texting at the time.

And they were also almost four times more likely to ignore lights, to cross at the middle of the junction, or fail to look both ways before stepping off the curb. 

In a country where more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed each year in traffic accidents, it seems sensible to do what we can to decrease our chances. The authors write:

Individuals may feel they have “safer use” than others, view commuting as “down time,” or have compulsive behaviors around mobile-device use. … Ultimately a shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behavior, similar to efforts around drunk-driving, will be important to limit the … risk of mobile-device use.

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COMMENTS: 8


  1. Sully says:

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  2. Arif Kitchlew says:

    I shudder to think what will happen when experimental technologies like “Connected” Spectacles become mainstream.

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  3. AaronS says:

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    • James says:

      “There was a time, if I needed to make a call while in my car…”

      There has never (been ok, almost never – I’ll allow that something like a 911 for an in-progress carjacking might be necessary) a time when anyone had to make a call while driving. Hang up and drive!

      But I do agree with your opinions on touch screens, not just on phones, but any device. I can’t help but wonder how the visually impaired are supposed to cope?

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  4. Jeni says:

    I call 911 on the road to report what I presume to be drunk drivers. Sometimes you have to report an accident that you saw, or call 311 to report a light out, or road obstruction, etc.

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    • Ian says:

      “I call 911 on the road to report what I presume to be drunk drivers. Sometimes you have to report an accident that you saw”

      And while you’re reporting the drunk drivers you’re as dangerous as they are unless you stop your car to make the call.

      And if you see an accident, perhaps you should consider stopping to help as well as phoning 911.

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  5. Melissa Belvadi says:

    Unlike drivers, pedestrians getting themselves hurt/killed while texting are not significantly subject to the Peltzman effect (higher risk taking results in greater injury rate to others than the risk taker), except I suppose where drivers might swerve dangerously to avoid them. It does seem rather to fall in the Darwin Award category of behavior choices – I’m not going to worry overmuch about it.

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  6. Michael J. McFadden says:

    Last year, a professor Fernando Wilson did a study showing the dangers of texting while driving. The results were largely aimed at teens who seem to be unaware of those dangers. However, Prof. Wilson’s research would have been far more effective if he’d been willing to compare those dangers to the supposed dangers of riding in a car with people smoking.

    If you use EPA secondhand smoke exposure figures for comparison to Prof. Wilson’s figures for driving and texting, the results are interesting. It is literally 13,000 times SAFER to ride in a car for a full hour with people smoking than it is to ride in a car where the driver does one text per hour of driving.

    Think about the teens you know who go ga ga over worrying about wisps of smoke. Think how powerful a message it could send to them if they knew that riding with a driving texter, even at only one text per hour, was THIRTEEN THOUSAND TIMES as “dangerous.”

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

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