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London - It may help you keep in touch. But texting while walking could make you lose your balance.
People who type SMSes while walking develop a robot-like posture that puts them in danger of toppling over, a study found.
The scientists warned that text-walkers are also at risk of wandering in front of traffic and stumbling on to train tracks – and urged pedestrians to stop before typing.
The Australian researchers tracked the body movements of 26 young men and women as they tried to walk in a straight line.
They walked the 30ft course three times – once without a cellphone, once while reading a text message and once while typing a message.
Their gait clearly changed when using their phone – with sending a text having a bigger impact than simply reading one.
Texting caused people to slow down, swerve off course and move their head from side to side.
They also developed a distinctive posture as they strained to keep their eyes on the screen.
University of Queensland researcher Siobhan Schabrun said: “We found that people walked with a posture that was robot-like.
“To keep their eyes steady on the phone, they 'locked' their arms, trunk and head together, all in aid of keeping their phone in their field of vision, so there was less movement between each of their body segments.
“We know from previous research that moving your body less puts you at greater risk of falling.”
Writing in the journal PLoS ONE , she added that the intense concentration put into writing a text and the side to side movement of the head may also affect balance.
Dr Schabrun said that people needed to be educated on the dangers of text-walking.
She said: “In recent years, there have been many reports of people involved in traffic accidents, stumbling on to train tracks, into fountains and off piers because they were texting while walking.
“The number of pedestrian accidents is rising and texting has been blamed.
“Despite this, few studies have actually looked at the impact of texting on how we walk.
“Understanding how walking changes when we use mobile phones should help us find strategies to reduce injuries and accidents.
“For example, education or government regulation.The simple solution is to stop while you are texting – it only takes 30 seconds, and then keep walking once you are done.”
Dr Schabrun favours education but in the US, police Fort Lee, New Jersey, have used jay-walking laws to fine dangerous texters.
In Britain, the AA has warned of the rise of mobile phone and iPod-obsessed pedestrians and estimates that distracted pedestrians cause at least 17 accidents a day.
It would like to see primary school children given lessons on the dangers of texting while walking. However, the problem is not confined to the young.
The motoring organisation’s president, Edmund King, said: “You can walk down any pavement and you’ll get bumped into by someone looking at their iPhone or BlackBerry.
“Quite often it is businessmen in pinstripes, walking through the City and stepping out into the road without lookin because they are checking the price of their shares on a phone.
“There is quite a serious safety element here because drivers have to expect the unexpected.”
Apparently, 8:38am is the time when gadget-lovers are most likely to walk out in front of a car.
The next most dangerous time of the day is 6:22pm. - Daily Mail