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Study illustrates potential dangers of walking while texting

Texting on a mobile phone can be distracting enough to significantly alter a person's gait.
Texting on a mobile phone can be distracting enough to significantly alter a person's gait.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A small Australian study published yesterday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE illustrates how even a mundane task such as walking can prove difficult when trying to send or read texts on a mobile phone at the same time.

The analysis used 26 healthy male and female volunteers over the age of 18. The participants used smart phones with onscreen QWERTY keyboards and had at least three months of experience using their current phones.

Scientists monitored their gait as well as body and head positions during normal walking, while they composed texts and while they read texts.

They documented slower walking speed and trouble walking in a straight line when participants were typing texts, and, to a lesser degree, when they were reading texts. While the scientists noted other changes in gait and body and head positions, the "deviation from a straight walking path" was deemed most likely to pose a danger.

The study authors write, "Those who perform a cognitive task while walking (often referred to as dual-tasking) are at greater risk of collisions or falls."

They conclude, "These altered gait parameters may have an impact on the safety of pedestrians who type or read text on a mobile phone while walking."