You're in for a Shock if you Must Text and Walk
I didn't realise that being a pedestrian on a busy street or shopping mall these days was so potentially hazardous to my health, until I was recently forced to swerve several times in the space of less than a minute, to avoid being trampled by one or other tactless taciturn texting transients. Indeed, so common has the head-down, mobile phone-in-hand, walking accident-waiting-to-happen pedestrian become, that the occurrence of relatively few (arguably) head-to-head pedestrian collisions is more testament to the ability of homo non-sapiens to perform a last minute side-step or body swerve, than to his or her historical ‘scan the horizon’ self preservation behaviour.
Observe any crowded pedestrian walkway these days and you will see the abrupt stop and start and sideways movements of many of the walkers, as they strive, at the last minute, to avoid an oncoming human obstruction, immediately after lifting their heads from their hand-held devices at the last minute before collision. Then, beyond the fellow traveller moving in opposing direction, there's the multitude of hazards awaiting us, as though tactically planted on our paths ahead, such as council's ongoing resurfacing paving works, loose or broken manhole covers, light poles and signs, trees, bus stops, parking meters, not to forget hoons on electric scooters.
Walking and texting's no good for our brain,
‘Mobile’ distraction may cause us some pain,
Footpaths have hazards, they're not always smooth,
Look up or you will have bruises to soothe.
Walking and texting will slow down your pace,
But you may still get a smack in the face,
Or bruise, or some sprain, or turned ankle, or worse,
Then a trip to ER to get stitched by the nurse.
Footpaths have obstacles, light poles and trees,
Other folks walking, all text devotees,
Look where you're going, not down at your phone,
Let's care for each other, and get safely home.
I must admit that, to date, I had almost exclusively been aware of the dangers of mobile-maniculed pensively distracted pedestrians walking out in front of vehicular (rather than pedestrian) traffic, with the ultimate result being a trip to the morgue rather than the ER. Here, the trip to eternity is often, it would appear, hastened by the target of the grim reaper wearing noise-cancelling headphones, thus preventing said victim from receiving any warning of pending impact, such as screeching of tyres, or honking of horn, or, should time permit, an onslaught of oaths fit to make an occer Aussie cab driver blush.
And if any of you out there are still not convinced by my above observations and conclusions, then perhaps look at the evidence presented in the following:
- Schabrun S M, Ven den Hoorn W et al, Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety, Plus One, University of Queensland, Australia, 2014. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0084312 . Here it is stated that, “There are concerns about the safety of texting while walking,” and, “Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, modify gait performance. Texting or reading on a mobile phone may pose an additional risk to safety for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road.” While these statements may appear like they are overstating the obvious, remember that this paper was published in 2014 when peer reviewed scientific studies on this topic were few and far between, if they existed at all. The study, for those of a pedantic nature or even podiatry ‘bent’, addresses gait kinematics, coordination of the head and thorax (and various other range of motion (ROM) attributes), walking speed with and without a hand-held device, and deviation from a straight line. I must admit to having been lost in the mathematical equations and statistical analysis, but took away the ‘bottom line’ information that, “Participants walked at a slower speed during reading and texting than when walking without the mobile phone, and walked slower during texting than reading”, and that, “Participants deviated more from a straight line during reading and texting than during the walking [without phone] task.”
- University of Newcastle, Australia, Safety Alert - Walking with Mobile Phones, 2015. https://www.newcastle.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/224459/Safety-Alert-15-15-Walking-with-Mobile-Phones.pdf . This safety alert, for staff and students at the uni campus, was issued reportedly following several incidents whereby, “a number of University staff have required medical treatment for injuries that have occurred from using their smart phone to text, email or use social media while walking around campus.” Hazards listed in the alert included, “leaf matter on paths, walking on uneven ground, other pedestrians including people on pushbikes and skateboards.” I recognise that many of you may consider that those attending university, whether in a studying or researching capacity, may be particularly prone to having their ‘head in the clouds’ and therefore perhaps more prone to being skittled while on their phone. Nevertheless, the increase in phone related accidents and, presumably, the university's implied duty of care, resulted in the publication of this safety alert.
- University of Melbourne, Australia, Safety Bulletin - Mobile Devices and Walking, July 2019. https://safety.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1834478/safety-bulletin-mobile-devices-and-walking.pdf . This safety bulletin was no doubt prompted by a similar assessment of data as at the University of Newcastle (2 above) and a perceived requirement to reduce the risk of incident to campus users. Two particularly worrying incidents are quoted in the bulletin as follows, although perhaps the obvious and even jocular nature (in hindsight) of both incidents was perhaps lost on all victims:
- “being hit when walking into an on-coming bicycle, resulting in bruises and lacerations for both the pedestrian and the rider”; and
- “walking into a closed door, resulting in loss of consciousness.”
So there we have it:
Is texting and walking LOL or LOPain?
I suggest that you decide whether to look at the antics of others and laugh (from a safe distance), or participate in the risky undertaking of distractive mobility, and potentially wear (literally) the consequences. If you want to make a fashion statement, then they say that a bicycle wheel wrapped round the head is ‘the new black’.
When not researching the weird or the wonderful, the comical or the cultured, the sinful or the serious, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:
The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a sometime poet and occasional writer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded people with diverse interests.
Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.Life Lessons
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