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Health & Balance

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Cell Phone 'Distracted Walking' Can Be Dangerous

Talking, texting users aren't looking out for dangers, study finds


People under 31 were among those most likely to be hurt while walking and using a cellphone, with those aged 21 to 25 sustaining the most injuries, followed by 16- to 20-year-olds. Men were slightly more likely (53 percent) than women to be pedestrian victims.

The estimated numbers of injuries to pedestrians on cellphones were roughly equal to those of drivers who were on cellphones. Even at the height in 2010, however, the estimated injuries accounted for fewer than 4 percent of all estimated injuries to pedestrians.

Nasar said the estimates in the study may greatly underestimate the risk of cellphone use to pedestrians.

John Lee, a professor with the department of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies distracted driving, said the new research has weaknesses. "It could be that cellphones are associated with a greater number of injuries simply because it is more likely that people are using a phone at the time," he said, "and it is hard to know if cellphone use actually causes these mishaps or is even associated with them."

Still, Lee said, "this research is consistent with other studies that show a cost of multitasking. Technology tempts us to try to do many things at once, but our ability is severely limited."

What should be done? Study lead author Nasar called for more awareness, but he doesn't support laws banning use of cellphones by pedestrians such as there are in some states for drivers.

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

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