Texting while walking

Alexander Graham Bell is regarded as the “inventor” of the telephone however, as usual, the actual story is a little more complex than that schoolroom view. Bell filed his patent for the telephone in 1876 but in 1849 Antonio Meucci, an Italian immigrant to Anerica, began developing the design of a talking telegraph or telephone. In 1871 Meucci filed a caveat (an announcement of an invention) for his design of a talking telegraph but due to personal problems he could not renew his caveat. Even disregarding Meucci’s role, Bell still only just got there. Elisha Gray, a professor at Oberlin College, applied for a caveat of the telephone on the same day Bell applied for his patent of the telephone, February 14th, 1876 (so romantic that the phone began life on that day). However, Bell’s application was the fifth entry of that day, while Gray was 39th. So the US Patent Office awarded Bell with the first patent for a telephone and the rest is history. It is highly unlikely though that any of these three men, even in their wildest dreams, could have imagined what their invention would transmogrify into over the next 140 years. Today a phone is a mobile portal in your pocket yielding access to all the world’s information even down to what your friend had for breakfast. Your phone goes everywhere with you and just by its sheer ubiquity in your life it changes your life even, according to new research, the way you walk.

The new study involved people aged 18-50 years old who completed three randomised walking tasks through an obstacle course. The tasks were walking normally, texting and walking, or texting and walking while being cognitively distracted with a maths test. As they did the tasks the researchers used 3-dimensional motion analysis to assess the differences between each trial.

Analysis showed that texting while being cognitively engaged increased step frequency but decreased the ability to walk in a straight line. Being cognitively distracted could be a matter of thinking about something going on at work so walking and texting while being cognitively distracted would be a very common condition these days. We know that using your phone while driving dramatically increases your risk of having an accident and from the results of this study is seems that using your phone while walking does the same.

Perhaps traffic reports should now include footpath reports as well, “There’s a big hold up on the M6 Motorway with a three-car pile up and outside the chemist and at Duntossing Heights there’s been a bingle between a Samsung Galaxy and an iPhone 6 blocking both directions and there’s been an emoticon clash just outside the toy shop on Itzbordmi Street.” Of course since we are talking texting here there would have to be an OMG and an LOL thrown in there … just FYI.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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