Pro tip: Don't read this on your smartphone while walking -- unless you want the people behind you to become annoyed and get an uncontrollable urge to rip your phone out of your hand.
If you've ever been stuck behind someone who was strolling while staring at a screen, you know walking texters get around about as fast as a snail with a Samsung Galaxy. Now a study has stepped in to confirm the obvious, concluding that people who walk while texting move more slowly -- and even swerve.
Researchers from Texas A&M University and University of Bath in the UK asked 30 participants between 18 and 50 to navigate an obstacle course with curbs, traffic posts and other common pedestrian obstacles, in three scenarios: walking normally; texting and walking; and texting and walking while being distracted by taking a standard mathematical test on an app.
Not too surprisingly, participants in the latter two situations took longer to complete the course -- taking smaller and slower steps and compensating for their diminished vision by raising their feet higher to clear stairs and curbs.
"We found that our participants were very good at adapting the way they walk to limit their risk of injury, and there were very few occasions when a participant hit an obstacle," Polly McGuigan, a lecturer in biomechanics at the University of Bath's Department for Health, said in a statement. "This may be because many of the participants had grown up using a mobile phone and are very used to multi-tasking."
The promising takeaway: walking texters did a good job adapting their movements to avoid mishaps. The bad news: the rest of the world was stuck behind them and late to an appointment. Plus, the researchers hypothesize, participants' pokier pace, along with their path deviations, could lead to trip-and-falls likewhile staring at her screen.
The researchers used a 3D optical motion analysis system to examine participants' movements and excluded from the study anyone taking medication that could cause dizziness. Last year,also studied walking and texting, and came to similar conclusions, though they didn't up the ante with pedestrian obstacles.
Further research, say the authors of the new study, published this week in the open-access journal PLOS One, should examine whether older texters on the move, who might be less immersed in the mobile lifestyle, are more prone to accidents.
Further research should also check up on the habits of the girl whowhile texting and walking and the woman who while stuck to her screen.