The dangers of walking and texting

Mobile phones are an ever increasing part of our everyday lives, but can prove a dangerous distraction when we’re out and about. This year’s Road Safety Week, which runs from 17th to 23rd November, is all about looking out for each other on the streets – read on to find out how sensible mobile phone use can enhance the safety of both motorists and pedestrians alike.
Person holding a phone and using an iPad.

Checking your phone, texting a friend, using maps to find your way – these are all a part of everyday mobile phone use, and many of us don’t think twice about being on the phone while we’re walking. The only trouble is, while you’re looking down at your mobile you’re not watching where you’re walking, and that could lead to a serious accident.

Although mobile technology advances year on year, we’re not getting any better at using it when we’re mobile. When your concentration is taken up by what’s on the screen, you can’t fully focus on what’s going on around you, it’s like being in a bubble. Bumping into someone else doing the same thing can be embarrassing, but not uncommon. The real worry comes when you’re distracted around traffic. In a recent survey by Confused.com, one in seven pedestrians admitted to being so distracted by their phones that they’ve stepped out into a busy road without looking.

A disastrous distraction

The dangers of using a mobile phone while driving are clear, but the same distraction can walk pedestrians right into harm’s way. This trend is referred to as ‘distracted walking’; when your mind is on your phone instead of the world around you, and it can be more risky than simply bumping into walls or tripping over.  Last year, according to the survey, there were over 24,000 pedestrian casualties, almost 40 per cent of which were caused by a failure to look properly. In 2012, a 15-year-old girl was hit by a train on a level crossing, while texting friends on her Blackberry. Another teenager was hurt when he fell off a bridge while talking on the phone. Failure to take appropriate care when crossing leads motorists to swerve, sound their horn, or slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.

Safety First

Many have tried to solve the problem of distracted walking. There was the launch of a padded lamppost scheme in London’s Brick Lane, a notorious danger spot for texters on the move, to provide preoccupied pedestrians with a soft landing in the event of a lamppost collision. And the recent release of a new app that detects an obstacle up ahead, through the camera on the back of your phone, and sends an alert to the mobile screen you’re looking at.

Maybe these technology advances could help us be safer while we text and walk,  after all it's just so tempting when you hear your ringtone to reach for your mobile and keep on moving while you check your Facebook.

But the real solution, in our opinion, is simply to stop walking when you need to use your phone - or else ignore it and enjoy the view.

(First published on 11/11/2014)

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