Distracted walking hazards are severely disregarded by many, as most people fail to admit they frequently engage in this type of behavior.
The study revealing this propensity was commissioned by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, a market research company based in Paris, France.
The purpose was to assess perceptions regarding distracted walking, a practice which consists in using mobile devices while moving on foot, for phone conversations, text messaging or listening to music.
Prior research, published in 2012, had shown that pedestrians who text were approximately 61% more at risk of being diverted from their usual route, due to being distracted by their gadgets. In addition, they are 4 times more unaware of traffic lights and of the presence of crosswalks that they should be using.
This can have extremely harmful and potentially life-threatening consequences, the number of people involved in accidents caused by this behavior having doubled in recent years.
More precisely, being a “digital deadwalker” makes it much more susceptible to getting injured by stumbling on sidewalk curbs, plunging down staircases, colliding with other people or walking into incoming traffic.
Given these elevated risks, researchers wanted to see what attitudes prevail in the U.S. society regarding the prevalence of distracted walking, by analyzing answers provided by around 4,000 poll participants.
It was determined that around 4 out of 5 respondents believe that using one’s mobile device while walking isn’t something that should be taken lightly, and 43% of the subjects are aware that such behavior can even lead to severe injuries.
However, despite these dangers, almost tree-quarters of Americans (74%) are of the opinion that other individuals are frequently guilty of this activity.
In sharp contrast, less than a third of them (29%) admit that they too sometimes indulge in such multitasking, usually driven by the fact that they are confident in this ability and wish to use time more effectively.
The obvious disparity between the two figures suggests that individuals are more likely to excuse this kind of reckless behavior when they themselves are the culprits, and more prone to condemn it when encountering it among others.
According to Alan Hilibrand, a representative of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the practice of distracted walking is especially hazardous for female mobile users, aged 55 and upwards.
On the other hand, millennials (aged 18 to 34) who are the ones more predisposed to being “digital deadwalkers” are much less prone to sustaining injuries such as bruises, sprains and broken bones, following this behavior.
Overall, researchers emphasize that using mobile devices while walking isn’t worth the associated risks, and should only take place while keeping the volume down, so as not to represent a distraction. Pedestrians should remain concentrated on the road ahead, and not rely on their capacity of multitasking.
As scientists point out, the ability of conducting several activities simultaneously has been overly hyped in recent years. In fact the brain can only execute one task at once, and can get distracted and overpowered while attempting to rapidly switch from one activity to the other.
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