Inspired living

Smartphone use while walking affects behaviour

woman walking on street whicle looking at smartphone


Distracted driving is dangerous. Using a smartphone while driving is responsible for many accidents and deaths and the toll is rising. As smartphone use becomes more ubiquitous, distracted walking is on the rise, too. Pedestrians are constantly distracted as they use their phones while walking.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia wanted to understand how mobile device use while walking affects pedestrians. The researchers mounted three cameras at an intersection near a college campus in Kamloops, British Columbia (Canada). They used video data to examine the movements and walking behaviour of pedestrians at a busy four-way intersection. The video-automated system used a computer vision technique and captured the natural movements of the pedestrians without disturbing their natural behaviour. The researchers captured the movements of 357 pedestrians over a two-day period.

Pedestrians who were texting or reading were more unstable in their movements as they walked, compared to pedestrians using their phones to converse.

Results showed that a third of the pedestrians were distracted by texting and reading or talking and listening on their phones. Distracted pedestrians tended to reduce and control their walking speed by adjusting their step length and step frequency. They took longer to cross the road and had trouble maintaining their walking speed and gait, which could potentially increase the chance of conflict with vehicles.

Pedestrians distracted by texting/reading had a lower step length and were less stable in walking, while pedestrians who were talking on their phone took slower steps without changing the length of their strides. Additionally, pedestrians who were texting or reading were more unstable in their movements as they walked, compared to pedestrians using their phones to converse. Distracted pedestrians acted differently from those not distracted when interacting with vehicles. To avoid oncoming vehicles, they reduced their speeds by adjusting their step frequency, while non-distracted pedestrians adjusted both their step frequency and the length of their steps.

Source: Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board


Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!