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Texting on the move makes you walk weird, study finds

When we use our phone while walking, we employ a "cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy," Anglia Ruskin Unveristy's study shows.

Walking silly isn't just a Monty Python sketch. It's something that you'll do naturally if you walk while browsing your phone, a study has shown

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University put a mobile eye tracker and motion analysis sensors on participants who walked and crossed a kerb-like obstacle on the ground while writing or reading a text or talking on the phone.   

According to results, phone users spend up to 61 percent less time watching out for the obstacle, and bring their foot up "higher and slower" over the obstacle as they walked, adopting a "cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy" to minimise the risk of tripping.  

This tendency is observed most in users writing a text on their phones.

"We found that using a phone means we look less frequently, and for less time, at the ground, but we adapt our visual search behaviour and our style of walking so we're able to negotiate static obstacles in a safe manner,"  said Dr Matthew Timmis, lead author and senior lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science. "This results in phone users adopting a slow and exaggerated stepping action."

"Accidents are likely to be the result of objects suddenly appearing that phone users were not aware of, for example other pedestrians or vehicles." 

Smombies (smartphone zombies, an actual term that's real) are becoming a road hazard in cities around the world. Efforts have been put in place to keep them (and others) safe, including installing traffic lights onto the ground to alert phone users when they can cross, and testing separate lanes for phone and non-phone users in Belgium, China, Thailand and Washington (for a documentary). Last year, a proposal was made in New Jersey to slap a fine upon smombies who text as they walk.

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