You hear a lot about the dangers of texting while driving, but what about texting while walking? Experts say the incidence of injuries due to distracted texting pedestrians has risen over the past decade. Other experts say texting while walking actually influences the way a person walks and may ultimately have long-term effects on their gait.
Injuries due to Texting while Walking
You’ve probably seen the videos and memes on the Internet of walking zombie texters who stumble onto train tracks, fall into manholes, end up in fountains or get hit by vehicles. While these incidences may seem funny to the viewer, they can be not so funny for the texting pedestrian. Doctors and safety experts say texting while walking, talking on cell phones, or using a mobile device with headphones to listen to music while walking can cause people to be unaware of situations around them which can cause injury – or even worse – death.
According to an Ohio State University study, the number of pedestrian ER visits for injuries related to cell phones tripled between 2004 and 2010, even though the total number of pedestrian injuries dropped during that period. Of these pedestrian ER visits, 9% of these injuries were due to texting while walking. Researchers believe the number of injured pedestrians is actually higher than these results suggest and that the number of pedestrian injuries caused by cell phone usage likely doubled again between 2010 and 2015.
In a recent survey of more than 2000 U.S. adults by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), 28% of respondents admitted to texting or doing other nontalking tasks on a smartphone while walking. 85% of people said they’ve seen other people texting while walking. Almost 40% of people have seen someone injured while texting during walking, or they themselves (26%) have had been involved in an incidence. The Ohio State University study found that young adults aged 16 to 25 have the highest risk for cell-phone-related injuries while walking.
Long-term Effects on Gait
Not only is distraction an issue when texting while walking, mobile multitasking also influences how people walk which may have long-term effects. Many studies have found that texting while walking can cause people to:
- Walk more slowly
- Walk with shorter steps
- Take more steps
- Walk more flat footed
- Raise their feet unnecessarily high to walk up stairs or over curbs
- Take longer to walk up or down stairs
- Have more forward and backward head motion
- Swerve more to miss obstacles
Generally, people who walk and text at the same time adopt a cautious gait pattern in order to minimize the risk of potential accidents. However, experts say this protective gait shouldn’t result in biomechanical problems in the future. But that also doesn’t mean you should continue to walk and text with abandon. A protective gait isn’t necessarily going to prevent accidents from happening.
How Age Affects Texting and Walking
Researchers have found that the age of the texter also plays a role in the incidence of injuries. As people age, balance becomes an issue that affects gait. Various conditions like type 2 diabetes and neuropathy can affect gait, too. Also a person’s sense of perception as it pertains to position, motion and equilibrium decreases. All of these things can increase an older person’s risk of falling. Therefore, older people should probably avoid texting while walking.
How to Prevent Accidents from Distracted Walking?
If you want to prevent accidents from occurring while walking, follow these tips:
- Don’t walk, talk and text.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Move out of the path of others and stop walking if you wish to text or talk on your cell phone.
- Never cross a street while using an electronic device.
- Don’t walk with headphones in your ears.
Custom Orthotics Can Help You Walk Better
While custom orthotics can’t stop accidents from occurring if you’re texting or talking on your electronic device while walking, they can help you walk better while reducing or alleviating pain in your feet, knees, hips and back. Custom orthotics like ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics support the arches of your feet and control your hind foot, so you walk in a biomechanically correct manner. Additionally, ezWalker® Custom Orthotics provide you with greater stability and balance – reducing your risk of falls. Our custom orthotics absorb the shock sustained with each step, reducing the stress and strain on your feet, knees, hips and back. Therefore, you’ll experience greater pain relief.
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Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.