What makes texting while walking so dangerous? The same thing that makes texting while driving a deadly habit: Distraction.

It may not seem to be a problem, but distracted walking may be a bigger issue than we realize. Pedestrians in a crosswalk routinely ignore street signs and signals in favor of checking their favorite social media sites, and a 2014 study in the journal Injury Prevention reveals that this behavior accounts for 80% of all pedestrian injuries.

The study is one of several recent surveys examining the risks associated with distractedly traipsing through urban landscapes. A Pew Research Center study from 2012 found that 32% of all smartphone users admit to bumping into someone or something while staring at their small screen. That number increased from 17% since a May 2010 survey of the same topic. This data only highlights the notion that distracted walking is a sign of our rapidly developing digital culture.

Here we are reminded that distraction is distraction, no matter how you present it; just as cognitive distractions are often cited as one of the main factors in texting and driving accidents, the science behind texting and walking accidents is equally revealing.

Scientists at New York’s Stony Brook University have discovered that texting and walking disrupts a persons gait to the point that they are physically unable to maneuver with the same ability as a non-distracted walker.

The researchers studied 33 participants, concluding that the average gait will be severely compromised as a result of using cellphones while walking as compared to a normal stride. Through the use of two separate control and variable groups, the researchers found the texting walkers were slower and veered off of their predetermined course more often than those walking without cellphones, swaying several feet, or 60%, away from their set path.

The study wraps up with a somewhat obvious conclusion: this behavior can, and does, have serious real-world consequences. Walkers who believe the few seconds they spend checking out their surroundings may misjudge their ability to accurately absorb all aspects of their circumstances. In traffic, this means a texting walker may think they have the right-of-way when they do not, causing an unnecessary and potentially deadly collision.

The results imply the cognitive effort put forth to operate a smartphone may be greater than previously believed. The amount of working memory and rudimentary cognitive processing texting walkers need to use their phone is in direct opposition to the spatial and temporal information they must absorb from their surroundings in order to effectively move and check their Instagram feed at the same time.

This is a topic that affects almost everyone in an age where encountering a person who is unplugged from their smartphone is rare. Goldberg Finnegan’s auto accident lawyers in Silver Spring, MD can help you determine whether your accident was the result of another persons negligence, and our legal team is ready to answer your questions today.