Texting While Walking - Dangers, Hazards, Injuries and Deaths

Navigating the sidewalks of modern cities can be very challenging and hazardous dodging all the unguided missiles of people texting while walking. These people are a danger to themselves, and to anyone in their path. People have been killed by walking into the path of traffic while texting.

This hazard has forced many municipal authorities to consider installing protective soft bumpers on lamp posts because people kept running into them and getting injured.

While there is no comprehensive statistics on number of people injured while texting, in 2008 more than 980 pedestrians who went to emergency rooms said that they were injured while using a cellphone to text or talk.

Doctors from emergency wards have reported injuries caused by people walking down the sidewalk sending a text message, missed the end of the curb, tripping and falling into the path of an oncoming car.


Two pedestrians have reportedly been killed in New York City because they were allegedly texting while crossing the street.


A recent interview survey found that almost 25% of respondents reported that they had tripped or fallen while texting.


Well, at least that’s how many admitted it for the survey.


These data are probably the tip of the iceberg as many people would be reluctant to admit that they got injured while texting.

This puts a new twist on the favorite 'Whistle while you work' or 'Tweeting on your way to work'.

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! Its Off to Work we Go
Hi Ho! Hi Ho! Its Off to Work we Go

The painful affliction of 'Texting Thumb' is also a growing problem (see Thumb Pain from Texting - Causes, Treatment, Prevention). This is a repetitive strain injury caused by using the thumb to type and very high rates of texting. The average teenager sends and receives and average of 8 texts an hour. Inattention during classes and in the work environment is also a growing concern

The seriousness of the hazard of texting while walking has led the American College of Emergency Physicians to issue alert warning of the dangers of text-messaging while walking and driving. At least one US state (Illinois) is considering a fine to reduce the hazards. Texting and using cellphones while driving is already banned in many countries.

It seems to be just common sense that people would stop walking if they need to view or answer a message. But it appears that message just cannot wait!

Many people read while walking but they hold the book high up and so they can see what's ahead with the peripheral vision. Texting while walking requires more visual concentration and attention and people look down towards the ground when typing, making it more dangerous.

Some authorities believe that runners, walkers and bicyclists who are distracted by cell phones and mp3 players are the cause of the increase in pedestrian injuries over the last four years when mobile devices became more popular.

In 2010, pedestrian fatalities in the US increased for the first time in 4 years.

One possible explanation for the increase was due to pedestrians being distracted and not paying proper attention.

Distracted walking while texting is most common for people aged 18 to 34 (the among millennials), but older people, especially women are most likely to suffer serious injuries. The rate of injuries reported to emergency centers and hospitals rose more than 100% from 2004-2010 and is growing.

Reported injuries injuries to the back, head, arms, legs and neck. Accidents due to distractions from cellphones and other devices include being hit by a vehicle, tripping over a curb, walking into a glass door, falling down a flight of stairs, or falling into a fountain, waterway, drain or swimming pool.

About three-quarters of millennials interviewed thought that distracted walking while texting was a serious issue.

Various states have considered introduced rules that would fine bicyclists for texting while biking, using cell phones and mp3 players.

A proposal in New York tried to ban walkers and runners from using headphones when crossing the street.

Traffic safety engineers have sought to address the problem of distraction by developing new technologies to warn drivers in areas where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.

In Florida motion detectors have been installed at some crossings without no traffic signals. When a pedestrian approaches, an alarm warns the pedestrian and trigger flashing lights to warn the drivers.

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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