Can we walk and talk at the same time?
Distracted walking is dangerous: But many Americans are overly confident in their ability to multitask



Distracted driving can cause crashes, injuries, and even death. But what about distracted walking? What are the consequences of pedestrians talking on the phone, texting, listening to music, or engaging deeply in conversation with the person next to them?
"Today, more and more people are falling down stairs, tripping over curbs and other streetscapes and, in many instances, stepping into traffic, causing cuts, bruises, sprains, and fractures," said Alan Hilibrand, MD, chair of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Communications Cabinet. "In fact, the number of injuries to pedestrians using their phones has more than doubled since 2004, and surveys have shown that 60 percent of pedestrians are distracted by other activities while walking."
The AAOS Distracted Walking Study in 2015, which involved 2,0500 respondents nationally, found that while 78 percent of U.S. adults believe that distracted walking is a "serious" issue, three-quarters say it's "other people" who walk distracted. Only 29 percent of respondents admit that they, personally, have an issue.
Of those injured in a distracted walking incident, women aged 55 and over are most likely to suffer serious injuries, while Millennials (ages 18 to 34) are least likely to be injured, according to the survey, despite the younger age group reporting higher rates of distracted walking incidents.
Perceptions of distracted walking also differ by generation, with 70 percent of Millennials believing that distracted walking is a serious issue compared with 81 percent of individuals aged 35 and older.
Millennials are more likely to engage in common distracted walking behaviors: texting, listening to music, and talking on the phone.
One of the challenges in combatting distracted walking may be that many Americans are overly confident in their ability to multitask.
When asked why they walk distracted, 48 percent of respondents say "they just don't think about it," 28 percent feel "they can walk and do other things," and 22 percent "are busy and want to use their time productively."
Among distracted walking behaviors, 75 percent of respondents say they "usually/always" or "sometimes" have "active conversations" with another person they are walking with — making this the most common distracted walking behavior people admit to doing themselves.
Other research studies highlight the many dangers of distracted walking:
Typing (texting) or reading a text alters a pedestrian's gait, speed, and walking pattern, according to a recent study.
Teens and young adults, ages 16 to 25, were most likely to be injured as distracted pedestrians, and most were hurt while talking rather than texting: Talking on the phone accounted for 69 percent of injuries between 2004 and 2010. Texting accounted for 9 percent of injuries during the same period.
Distracted pedestrians may have been a contributing factor in the 4,200 pedestrian deaths and 70,000 injuries in traffic crashes in 2010, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS): orthoinfo.aaos.org