By Mark Giancaspro.
As beneficial as they are to our lives, mobile phones also present a legitimate threat to public safety – and not because of on-road use or radiation.
Many mobile phone users now text, or intently perform some other function on their phone, while walking. This is commonly seen in public places – especially at road crossings.
In Australia, as many as one in three pedestrians use a mobile phone while crossing the road. Following recent reports in New South Wales and Victoria of an increase in the number of distracted pedestrians being injured or killed, there are now calls to explicitly outlaw people from using their phones while walking.
What’s the problem?
A 2010 study conducted by researchers at Western Washington University in the US found that pedestrians using their mobile phones:
… walked more slowly, changed directions more frequently, and were less likely to acknowledge other people.
This exposed them to far greater risk of an accident.
The practice was also shown to decrease situational awareness and cause “inattentional blindness” (the inability to detect new and distinctive stimuli). Participants in the study failed to notice a clown on a unicycle while walking on their common route.
A more recent study concluded:
Pedestrian behaviour requires a complex set of cognitive skills including attentional processes, visual and aural perceptual processes, information processing, decision-making and motor initiation.
Using your mobile phone while walking compromises all of these skills.