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Texting While Walking Linked to Riskiest Behavior, Study Shows

December 12, 2012

Sending text messages while crossing the street is associated with the riskiest pedestrian behavior, according to a study.

Texting pedestrians, compared with undistracted ones, were almost four times more likely to disobey traffic lights, cross mid-intersection or fail to look both ways, according to a study of 1,102 people observed in Seattle. The research, led by Beth Ebel at the University of Washington, was published today in the medical journal Injury Prevention.

While the study didn’t link this unsafe behavior to the risk of accident and injury, earlier research has shown that illegal pedestrian activity is correlated with injury risk that is eight times that of legal crossings.

“The steady rise in the prevalence of text messaging and the use of mobile devices for a wide range of functions such as playing games suggests that the risk of distraction will increase,” the authors said in the paper. “A shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behavior, similar to efforts around drunk driving, will be important.”

Among all observed pedestrians, almost one-third were engaged in a distracting activity, including listening to music, text messaging and using a mobile phone.

Distractions also affected how long it takes to cross the average street. Text messaging increased crossing time by an additional 1.87 seconds, compared with undistracted crossings, while pedestrians listening to music walked more than half a second faster than those who were undistracted.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board last year recommended a ban on text messaging and mobile phone use among drivers. More than 3,000 deaths, or 9.4 percent of road fatalities, were related to driver distraction in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at

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