Texting While Walking: It’s More Dangerous Than You Think

“He’s so clumsy he can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!”

It’s an old joke, but distracted walking is becoming an increasingly concerning problem -- of course, the problem is more often texting and walking than chewing gum and walking.

Expert organizations from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to the Governors Highway Safety Association have expressed concern about distracted walking, with texting being one of the reasons people are distracted while walking.

The multitasking myth

Are you an expert multitasker?

No matter who you are, the answer is “no” because the human brain is simply not made to multitask. When you’re doing more than one thing at a time, your brain is simply switching between tasks quickly. You can only focus on one thing at a time.

That means when you walk and text, you aren’t fully paying attention to either activity. And, though it may seem like you don’t need all of your brain power to walk, consider just what a complex action walking is.

Walking requires your brain to process visual information, while also controlling your feet and legs. How high you lift your knee, the length of your stride -- watch out for that puddle! -- are all part of the deceptively simple act of walking. In some ways, you’re already multitasking when you walk, so adding your phone to the mix makes things really difficult.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise, while fatalities due to other traffic accidents are down. Distracted walking may well be playing a role in that increasing death toll. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons cites a study that observed 20 intersections in Seattle, where people who were texting displayed “unsafe crossing behavior” four times more often than other people.

The risk of injury is dramatically greater if you walk and text than if you simply walk. You’re more likely to trip, bump into something or someone, twist your ankle, or step into traffic if you’re distracted while you walk. Cuts, bruises, sprains, and even fractures are a few of the types of injuries experts are seeing an increase.

Stay safe while walking

You can do some simple things to limit your risk of getting hurt while walking. For instance, practice focusing on your setting while you walk. Actively pay attention to the people, obstacles, and sounds in your surroundings.

If you need to use headphones, keep the volume low enough that you can still hear the sounds of traffic around you.

When you absolutely must make a call or send a text, stop walking while you do so. You probably already do this while you’re driving, so training yourself to stop walking while you use your phone should be easy.

When you’re walking in an urban area especially, be sure that you look up when you’re crossing intersections or approaching stairs or escalators.

To learn more about the dangers of distracted walking, or to have an injury you’ve already sustained while walking and texting treated -- book an appointment online or by phone at Alliance Foot & Ankle today. We want to keep you healthy and safely walking.

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