In anticipation of talking about the issue of texting while walking on a panel at the HFES Annual Conference, I tried it out. I tried crossing an intersection by the conference hotel that was busy with traffic while typing out a text message. I have never done this before but I had read a lot of research on how distracting texting can be. I felt that a personal experience would help me talk about it more intelligibly.
Luckily I was able to do it safely, give a good talk on the panel, and go on my way. Then I saw this paper in the Human Factors journal. The study by a team from the Universities of Illinois and Iowa used a simulator (safety first!) to compare crossing the street while talking, texting, or neither. Texting and talking on the phone were both associated with fewer safe crossings and took longer to cross (which means that the light could change on them).
Results suggest that (a) texting is as unsafe as phone conversations for street-crossing performance and (b) when subjects completed most of the texting task before initiating crossing, they were more likely to make it safely across the street.
We shouldn’t be surprised that texting while crossing the street is dangerous. Do we need a study to show us? Since so many people do it, perhaps we do.
Do you text while walking? While crossing the street? While driving? It would be interesting to hear some stories about close calls.
Image Credit: Jan Vašek