Texting and walking changes pace, gait

People walk slower while texting on their mobile phones to try to avoid accidents, study shows. (AAP)

Young people seen "drunkenly weaving" while texting are simply compensating for their diminished vision, research has found.

People walk slower while texting on their mobile phones to try to avoid accidents, according to new British research.

And they often make large, exaggerated movements to negotiate crowds and compensate for their diminished vision.

One of the researchers, Dr Conrad Earnest, had the idea for the study after becoming irritated at the "drunken weaving" of pedestrians on their mobile phones in Bath city centre.

With the help of two University of Bath undergraduates, he took 30 people and made them complete three different walking tasks around an obstacle course.

The participants - aged between 18 and 50 - did the course while walking normally, texting and walking, and texting and walking while being cognitively distracted with a simple maths test.

The researchers examined the walkers' gait using a 3D motion analysis system and modelled each task to assess the differences between trails.

The authors found that participants took significantly longer to complete the course while texting and being cognitively distracted compared with just walking.

Texting while being cognitively distracted also increased obstacle clearance, step frequency and decreased someone's ability to walk in a straight line.

The authors of the study suggest participants - when faced with cognitive challenges - decrease their walking speed to avoid accidents.

Dr Earnest said: "One day I was walking on the high street and totally frustrated by the 'drunken weaving' about of texters who were also trying to carry on phone conversations during their shopping.

"Deciding to seek refuge, I went into a local coffee shop and was equally annoyed by people in a queue placing their orders, texting and or talking on their phones."

He said their main findings were that people slowed their walking speed, took more steps in their approach to common obstacles, and increased the height of their step to go up steps and over curbs.

"This study shows that people who are walking, texting and undertaking may slow their pace and alter their gait as a protective measure to perform all the required tasks simultaneously," he said.

The authors suggest this study group may be more familiar with walking while interacting with mobile phones and that further research may be needed to examine older participants, who may be at a greater risk of tripping with such walking deviations

"It's probably too optimistic to suggest that people learn to enjoy their walks and let the text and emails wait," Dr Earnest said.

"Perhaps a good middle ground is that if a text or email really can't wait, then 'pull to the side', stand still, answer the text or email and continue along."

Source AAP

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