Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? How ‘bout walk and text? Bet you can’t.

texting while walking is deadlyWe all know that it’s downright stupid to text while driving. New research has found that it may be nearly as dangerous to text while walking.

Beth Ebel, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle, and her colleagues at the University of Washington observed more than 1,000 pedestrians crossing busy streets at a variety of randomly chosen times. Thirty percent of pedestrians were distracted in some way, including 11.2 percent who were listening to music, 7.3 percent who were texting, and 6.2 who were talking on the phone.

How distracted were they? According to Ebel and her team, people whose head is buried in their phone cross the street more slowly than those without phones (about two seconds longer), are less likely to look left and right before stepping into the street, and are more likely to jaywalk.
The results can be devastating. Using a cell phone while driving impairs the driver’s reaction times and focus as much as if he or she had a few drinks. And according to the CDC, 4,000 pedestrians are killed each year and 60,000 are injured. And then there are the people (and I’ve actually seen this a number of times) who text while riding a motorcycle or bicycle. Amazing.

Most of us get annoyed at other people who are too distracted by whatever’s happening with their phone to pay attention. After all, it’s dangerous. So why do we then turn around and do the very same thing? In an interview cited by the American Council on Science and Health, Ebel explained that it’s kind of like Pavlov’s dogs—you remember, Pavlov rang a bell every time he fed his dogs and in almost no time, the dogs would start to salivate every time they heard the bell—whether they got any food at all. “Text messaging is just the same,” Ebel said. “The phone rings, and we get a nice treat.”

For more on the dangers of texting and driving, see my article, “Driven to Distraction–and Death.”

Armin Brott

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Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.
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