Texting while walking makes you go wonky, researchers say

A research study confirms what we've already suspected: Texting and walking can be a dangerous combination.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Woman walking and texting
Look out, texting walker. Ed Yourdon

Just as I don't text and drive, I also don't text and walk. I stand still to do my digital business. Sure, like everybody else, I was curious if I could successfully walk and text at the same time. But one jarring landing down a driveway drop-off was enough to make me give it up for good. Now, I have some scientific backing for my decision.

A team of researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia conducted a study titled "Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety." The work focused on the gait performance of 26 healthy individuals when walking normally, reading on a phone, and then texting.

Not too surprisingly, the study found people walk funny when they text, much more so than when just walking or even when walking and reading. They slowed down and deviated from a straight line, which the researchers attribute to mental distraction, the odd mechanics of holding a phone while typing on it, and a reduced visual field from focusing on the screen.

The study concludes:

We demonstrate slower walking speed, greater deviation from a straight path and increase absolute lateral step deviation in conjunction with increased rotation ROM [range of motion] of the head in global space, reduced relative motion and greater "in-phase" motion of the head during typing, and to a lesser extent, reading text on a mobile phone than normal walking. These altered gait parameters may have an impact on the safety of pedestrians who type or read text on a mobile phone while walking.

It's nice that real scientists have taken an interest in the texting and walking phenomenon, but most of us already know it's an inherently bad idea. When I say "most of us," I'm not including this lady who texted herself off a pier, this guy who texted his way into a bear ambush, or this girl who texted down an open manhole. OK, maybe we do need scientists to set us straight on this issue.