Saturday, December 15, 2012

Study says texting the highest risk distraction among 'distracted walkers'

We hope you don't need examples like "the Fountain Lady" and "distracted walker in China" to know that distracted walking, which is using your mobile device while walking can be dangerous. If you need examples, however, there is a study (not an app) for you.

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The study was published on Wednesday in the online edition of the journal "Injury Prevention." It analyzed the behavior of pedestrians at what the study called "20 high-risk intersections" during random time periods throughout the year.

The study covered 1,102 pedestrians. Of those, about one-third were engaged in some activity which caused distracted walking. 11.2 percent of distracted walkers were listening to music, while 7.3 percent were text messaging, and 6.0 percent were -- gasp -- talking, rather than texting.

Of those activities, researchers, led by Beth Ebel at the University of Washington, said that texting affected crossing the street the most. Texting pedestrians took 1.87 seconds longer to cross the average intersection than undistracted walkers.

The study said:
The steady rise in the prevalence of text messaging and the use of mobile devices for a wide range of functions such as playing games suggests that the risk of distraction will increase. A shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behavior, similar to efforts around drunk driving, will be important.
It's really not just about text messaging, either. Some pedestrians may appear to be texting, when in reality their checking into FourSquare, reading Facebook updates, or looking at Instagram.

With regard to the above examples, in 2011, the Fountain Lady went viral when a YouTube video showed her falling into a mall fountain while texting. Earlier this year, a teenage girl in China was talking on her cell phone when she fell into a sinkhole.

Some localities have taken distracted walking into their own hands.  In May of this year, a New Jersey city began fining distracted walkers.

Last year, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended a complete ban on mobile phone use among drivers. The NTSB's recommended ban would include hands-free use of cell phones.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,000 deaths, or 9.4 percent of road fatalities, were related to driver distraction in 2010.

Ready for a mobile phone upgrade?

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