back to article Walking while texting can – OUCH! – end badly, say boffins

Scientists have proved what anyone walking down a crowded street in modern city knows: those who gaze at their phones while ambulating are a danger to themselves and others. Detailed here at PLOS ONE in research titled “Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety”, the authors explain that …


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  1. Paul Leigh

    No shit, sherlock!

    Really? It needed research project to confirm this?

    I'm all for boffinery in any guise but anyone who has eyes (and not looking at their phone) can see this in every street nowadays. What would have been a useful outcome would have been to reveal the best angle and volume to shout "Oi, muppet" to cause maximum confusion to said anti-social phone using perambulator.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: No shit, sherlock!

      Ah but you see anecdotal evidence is not the same as a very expensive year long scientific study. It's now PROVED!

      Everyone knows that Popes are Catholic, and Bears poo in the woods, but if no-one has done a scientific study, you can't say that those are facts...

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: No shit, sherlock!

        "...and Bears poo in the woods..."

        Well, there are numerous studies on that one, complete with an analysis of what the bear ate and what the residue was like.

        Now, there's a study on idiots wandering about not watching where they're walking.

        Test me, you'll see normal walking. When walking or driving about, it's a hearty "screw whoever it is" while I moving about.

        They can damned well wait for me to get where I'm going.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: No shit, sherlock!

      Yes, it is from the department of the bleeding obvious but you do need the research if, for example, you're going to draw up rules on the use of devices while operating machinery.

    3. John H Woods Silver badge

      "I'm all for boffinery in any guise but..."

      ... I'm strangely uninterested in the somewhat counter-intuitive finding that it is an *increase* in head movement that may be responsible, or that using kinematics to quantify the effects of distraction on motor control might be interesting or even have future applications.

      If I may comment on your own research proposal, I think it would be useful to determine the approximate probabililty of getting into an unpleasant fracas by shouting 'Oi, Muppet!" at someone looking at their phone.

    4. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: No shit, sherlock!


      The only dangerous thing that will happen is that if one more selfish bell-end has to get their phone out 0.2 seconds after they get a signal at the tube station, then dawdle out of the entrance tapping away on "FriendFace" or whatever is more important, while the rest of us try to refrain from pushing them over!

      Want to check your phone? No problem, move out of the way and let everyone else, who has places to be, get on their way. Simple politeness and common sense is all I ask.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No shit, sherlock!

        Er... who *tries to refrain* from pushing them over?

        I don't. The faster they pull out the mobile, the lower I drop my shoulder.

    5. cray74

      Re: No shit, sherlock!

      The study isn't necessarily to confirm this happens, since I think there's enough news stories of idiots walking into fountains and traffic while texting to confirm it.

      Rather, this is exactly the sort of study a health insurance company would love to have.

      "In order to qualify for our lowest premiums, you need to go to a clinic for a series of blood and urine tests to confirm that you don't use alcohol or other drugs; are not pregnant (or planning to have a kid, rug rats are expensive to us, so we'll give you a further discount if you get sterilized); and don't have cancer.

      "Further, you'll need to install this app on your phone, which utilizes the phone's accelerometer to determine if you're walking and texting, which is known to increase the rate of traumatic injuries over the normal population by 11.2%. Medical bills incurred from texting and walking will result in an increase in premiums."

      Lawyers could also exploit this information for plaintiffs and the defense.

      "These heartless corporations were only concerned for their shareholders when they put an addictive texting device in my client's hands despite scientific evidence that texting and walking leads to an 11.2% increase in traumatic injuries. They are solely responsible for him walking into traffic because of the distraction of texting..."

      "The plaintiff's claims that Google, Verizon, and Samsung are responsible for him walking into traffic while texting are baseless, as it is well-established in scientific studies available to the public that one should not text while walking. Any reasonable adult should know to walk and text responsibly."

    6. Vic

      Re: No shit, sherlock!

      > anti-social phone using perambulator.

      Omitting the hyphen between "using" and "perambulator" entirely changes the meaning of that phrase.

      Thing is, I think you might be right on the money as written...


    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A Game I Play

      If I see someone walking along engrossed in texting, not a care in the world, not looking up and expecting everyone to jump out of the way, especially elderly people I feel that it is an arrogance gone too far.

      They are extremely predictable ( like text ) and walk in a straight line not caring a hoot for anyone else. I position myself on the predicted path they are taking and just before the collision put my shoulder down step forward and.... Let them crash into me.

      Oh the look of surprise on the suited figures lying on the pavement screaming at me. My response is always the same, that they need to look where they are going instead of being so engrossed in their phone, that they walked into me without looking. My parting shot is that I hope they don't text and drive.

      Satisfying, though I do this as an equal opportunities crasher, favouring neither men or women, I just stop dead in front of women and let them walk into me. Using the shoulder technique would not be fair would it? Oh and pushchairs are a really good tripping device.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Don't stop there,

    continue the research using Glasshole volunteers with their Augmented Reality devices functioning while walking/driving and tell us how good it is(n't) for the rest of the world's safety..

  3. Purlieu

    re: you're going to draw up rules on the use of devices while operating machinery

    Rule 1. Don't

    1. Graham O'Brien

      Re: re: you're going to draw up rules on the use of devices while operating machinery

      @ Purlieu

      Rule 1a. Unless said device is part of the controls of said machinery (think GPS, instrument landing systems on yer average airliner - safer to use the devices than not)

      1. Purlieu

        Re: re: you're going to draw up rules on the use of devices while operating machinery

        The study was titled “Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety” so I'm hoping that the pilot is using the onboard equipment rather than walking up and down the aisle trying to do it from an iPhone

  4. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Maintaining a straight path

    In a pedestrian environment my ability to maintain a straight path is usually hampered by other pedestrians. In other words, maintaining a straight path can and does lead to collisions - not even the look straight ahead and over their heads approach works anymore. Or did I miss something in the article?

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Maintaining a straight path

      The point is that if you are also paying attention to your phone then your chances of collision go up. When half the pedestrian population is paying attention to their phone of course your chance of collision will go up even if you are paying attention because there are too many others to monitor and predict the paths of.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Maintaining a straight path

        "When half the pedestrian population is paying attention to their phone..."

        Indeed. But paying attention to where you walk provides a better ability to fend of txting pedestrians, with elbows, arms, etc.

  5. Muscleguy Silver badge

    "Those measurements lead to a very detailed discussion of kinematics and other exercise-related stuff that make the innards of a CPU seem comfortingly simple. "

    This biologist thanks you for that one. Wetware is much more complex than hardware though it is much more predictable than it likes to think it is. While trying to log in to my bank yesterday was anything but predictable.

  6. Faye B

    Sent from iPhone

    I don't believe this study. I regularly walk and text at the same ti

  7. Ben Rosenthal

    The swines doing this who just stop in front of doorways and staircases...well I'll just say their chance of an "accident" goes up exponentially every time they do it in front of me in the train station during rush hour >.<

    1. Peter Simpson 1

      I refer to them as iZombies, because they're mindless (or rather, their mind is elsewhere). Very annoying, especially when they're driving the [still stationery] vehicle in front of you when the light turns green.

    2. Lamont Cranston

      Old people are wont to do this,

      only without the distraction of a mobile phone. But, oh, the fuss when you push one of them into the road...

  8. AndrueC Silver badge

    Wow. Some scientists really are on the gravy train. I walk between Brindleyplace and Birmingham New Street every weekday and often have to avoid these people. I nearly walked into one woman who stopped to get her phone out right at the exit of Paradise Forum. That's just stupid on many levels - that's a congestion spot for pedestrians at the best of times. Doing it in front of me was especially risky - my average time for that journey is 10 minutes(*) so you don't want me colliding with you.

    (*)1 mile according to Google.

  9. Kaltern

    I wonder if I can get a grant for a new study: Will you die if you step in front of a fast moving train?

    I will need volunteers, and to make the study fair, I should test a cross-section of trains from around the world - surely the Japanese train system would be the most deadly, while the UK train service may have the highest chances of survival, due to delays...

    I volunteer to head this research from various 5 star accommodations in major world cities, and will use the research money wisely - I will only refill the minibar once a day.

  10. Purlieu

    Think of the children

    How many times do you see a mother with a few kids running about crossing a road while staring into a phone or endlessly speaking into one

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Less often nowadays. I think the WWF has put them on the endangered list.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Think of the children

      Mother with kids in toe while mother yacks on the phone to someone else. I sometimes wonder what the psychological impact of that is on the kids. I don't have any of my own (and don't want any) but surely a mother should be interacting with her kids when they are with her?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: interacting with her kids

        As in, "Get off my bloody toe!"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guilty as charged…

    It's not so bad if you're away from crowds, but this phenomenon happened to me once whilst fiddling with a hand-held GPS. 2012 walking back to my accommodation having sourced dinner, I was putting some waypoints into the GPS with the intention of recording details of where one might get food on OpenStreetMap later.

    Muggins, not paying attention to where he was walking, walks straight into a 60km/hr speed sign!

    So yeah, doesn't matter what mode of transport, WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING; collisions happen at any non-zero speed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Guilty as charged…

      The pain of such "low-"speed collisions was one of the things that convinced me to always wear a seat belt when in a car. As in, if that is what 3mph feels like, I don't fancy hitting something at 30mph.

  12. sandman

    Anecdotal Evidence

    Yep, it is bleeding obvious to anyone who walks down the street. So was the "fact" that the sun went round the earth every 24 hours. Then some bright spark decided that the opposite was true (despite being persecuted by Popes and possibly sylvan dwelling/defacating ursines). Once proven everyone went "oh yeah, that was obvious, dunno why that Galileo bloke wasted his time".

    Now we know that our anecdotal evidence is correct and why, so we're straight into the "oh yeah, that was bleeding obvious" stage ;-)

  13. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Noticed this many years ago

    I'm 6'5" and 20 stone (280lbs in US) and people cannot see me wearing a Hawaiian shirt in a built up area.

    And these people think they can drive wearing google glass?

    1. Vic

      Re: Noticed this many years ago

      > people cannot see me wearing a Hawaiian shirt in a built up area.

      That's an offence, Mr. Kodogo...


      [ Younger viewers might like to search for "Winston Kodogo" for that reference... ]

  14. Miek

    "Prodding your mobe slows you down and limits your vision"

    Edit: See Icon --->

  15. DropBear

    Note to smartphone makers: start integrating multiple ultrasonic sensors, detect gait via the already existing accelerometers, display "STOP AND LOOK UP NOW" pop-up warning if rapidly approaching object is detected*

    *: unless "rapid" means vehicular levels of speed, in which case change to "RUUUUN, FORREST!"

  16. John Tserkezis

    The study is nowhere near as funny as actually watching someone walk off a pier.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Pity there's no video. Anyway, the phonetard "walked off the pier into the icy waters of the bay...". But exactly how icy is Port Philip Bay mid December?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Apparently not icy enough to cause what my mother would call "a knowledge bump".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The saddest part of this story is that there was no need to file a lost property report, because when they fished the stupid woman out of the water she was *still clutching the phone*.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, and she also couldn't swim.

      Other people who shouldn't text-and-walk include those who are unable to stop speeding cars with their bare hands.

  17. Martin Maloney

    So call me a curmudgeon

    We've all seen the bumper sticker


    I've often had the urge to shout


  18. Kubla Cant Silver badge


    Eight cameras were used to record subjects' movement on an ~8.5m course

    I would guess that 8.5m is about a dozen paces for the average person. It doesn't sound like you could get a significant sample of normal walking over that distance, even if you do use eight cameras.

    How much texting can even a phone zombie do in the time it takes to cross a moderately large room?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much texting can even a phone zombie do?

      The average teenager can communicate by SMS with 12.48 people, but by the time they reach the age of 25, that has probably dropped to a mere 8.7. By the age of 30, they may not be able to communicate at all.

      Oh, I should have said. "Studies show that..."

  19. Sam Adams the Dog

    And whatever you do...

    ... don't try chewing gum at the same time.

  20. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    possibly some shit sherlock

    People have been using the old 'Is the Pope a Catholic?', 'Do bears shit in the woods?' to imply a certain obvious answer, but the answers aren't in fact as obvious as some people might believe. It's not cut-and-dried...

    Let's consider papal catholicity: There have been 266 occupants of the see of Rome (give or take a few anti-popes), and arguably all of these have been Roman Catholics. BUT we mustn't forget the other Popes - the Coptic Orthodox popes of Alexandria - all 118 of them. The Coptic Papacy was established before the Roman one. Clearly they aren't Roman Catholics, but they are Catholics, as in 'One holy, catholic and apostolic church' where Catholic = Universal.

    So, averaged over the last 2000 years, we can say that approx 60% of popes were Roman Catholic, and at any given time at least 50% of the popes are Roman Catholic (but e.g. early 15th century when there were two anti-popes at the same time, then that rises to 75% were roman catholic or Avignon catholic), but yes all popes are Catholic, even if not Roman Catholic. BUT again...if Catholic is being used in the sense of universal, clearly as there are many churches claiming to be universal then in fact none of them are actually universal or catholic, so we can actually say none of the present popes are catholic.

    See, I said it wasn't simple!

    And when we turn to bears' lavatorial habits - what about polar bears?

    1. Darryl

      Re: possibly some shit sherlock

      Are bears Catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods?

      As for bears, the grizzlies and black bears in the Canadian Rockies seem to prefer cutlines and access roads, and the occasional highway...

  21. Joe User

    The dangers of texting while walking

    Because those indoor fountains are so hard to see:

  22. Blartbast

    Pedestrian fail

    I was stopped at a red light at a busy intersection a few weeks ago. A young woman was crossing the street while looking at her phone.

    She walked right into my right front fender, she hit hard enough that her face hit my hood. She started screaming at me for hitting HER. I started laughing so hard tears came to my eyes. She screamed something unintelligible and continued across the street and I drove away still laughing.

  23. Schultz Silver badge

    Research ...

    My youtube research shows that dangers go far beyond stepping a few degrees off the straight path.

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