It's Official: Texting Makes You Walk Like An Idiot

A new Australian study has confirmed what most of us already know: texting on your mobile phone makes you walk like a short-sighted drunkard. Scientists have found that writing messages on the move drastically alters a person's posture, gait, balance and ability to walk in a straight line, which may pose additional risks to pedestrian safety. Face, meet lamppost.

Texting/walking picture from Shutterstock

In a small scale study, researchers from the University of Queensland analysed the way mobile phone use affected body movement in 26 individuals. All participants had at least three months experience with their current smartphone and normal, healthy postures.

The participants' movements were monitored as they read and texted identical messages on their mobile phones while walking in a straight line at a comfortable pace. Participants were free to text in their normal manner (one or two hands, phone held in portrait or landscape, etc.)

The researchers found that phone use causes significant alterations to the body's movement while walking; particularly when inputting text messages. When participants were writing text, they walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and moved their neck less, which can adversely affect the balance system.

Evaluation of gait performance revealed that individuals walk slower, demonstrate greater absolute medial-lateral step deviation, increase rotation ROM of the head with respect to the global reference frame, walk with a flexed head position, reduce neck ROM, and move the thorax and head more in-phase with reduced phase variability, during texting and reading than unconstrained walking.

The report concludes that texting or reading on the move can pose additional safety risks for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road. Well, duh.

Have you ever had an accident while walking-and-texting? Has anyone ever bumped into you while distractedly using their phone? Share your stories in the comments section below.

See also: What's The Most Inappropriate Gadget You Use While Walking?

Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety [PLOS ONE]


    I'm a bus driver, driving through the CBD on a regular basis at various times of the day. I've never actually had someone walk under the bus (which would be SUCH a clichéd way to die!), but I've sounded the horn a few times at phone-zombies who probably would have otherwise.

    There's also a lot of people who are late for school or work because they've hidden themselves behind a shelter, blocked their hearing with earbuds and their sight with rapt attention to a screen, and not noticed the bus until it's gone past (and sometimes, I think, not even then.)

    Actually no, I just work for the ministry of silly walks.

    I don't have any problems walking and texting at the same time because I always look up like every 2 secs to see where I'm going.

      Same here - I drive and text the same way.
      ... oh, sorry, you're not joking?

      phone-zombies are mostly the 'slow' variety - the dawdlers described in the article above that weave erratically and stop at random in packed peak-hour locations, like meat bollards.

      the 'fast' variety are more dangerous - they think their ability to interact with their environment is unimpaired by failing to observe it 99% of the time and I've seen several crash into objects or others.

      Romero would be proud.

    I kind of miss T9 keyboards. I barely used to look at my phone, I'd type entire messages with one thumb without even looking, then glance to make sure I hadn't made any ducking mistakes before sending.

    brisbane 22/1/1014. asian phone addict texting away while waiting for the little green man to start beeping to cross. he goes off starts beeping. addicted female, asian phone texter. starts walking while still texting. stupid dude in white contract business ute speeds off like he is at the drag strip. I yell HEY
    she stops both feet in the gutter, with the ute narrowly missed her. all she could do was smile n go back to texting. had no idea almost died. so I stopped her. and asked is it that fucking important you text right here right now? put your phone away. enjoy the world, and concen fucking trait!

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