Distracted walking a serious problem: Study

By: Devon Andre | Health News | Thursday, December 03, 2015 - 11:00 AM

Distracted walking a serious problem: StudyResearch from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) found that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of U.S. adults partake in distracted walking, and it’s been deemed a serious problem. Unfortunately, 74 percent of Americans believe other people are the distracted walkers, and only 29 percent admitted to being a distracted walker themselves.

There are obvious risks regarding distracted walking – bumping into others, tripping, bumping into objects, falling. Thirty-one percent stated distracted walking is “something I’m likely to do,” while 22 percent believe distracted walking is “funny.”

Other findings from their research revealed more of the “it’s not me, it’s you” ideology. For example:

Distracted action while walking % of people who say others do it % of people who admit to it themselves
 Taking pictures with phone 90% 37%
Engaging in conversation 88% 75%
Listening to music 88% 34%
Using a smartphone 85% 28%
Being “zoned out” 64% 38%

Alan Hilibrand, M.D., AAOS spokesperson, said, “Today, the dangers of the ‘digital deadwalker’ are growing with more and more pedestrians falling down stairs, tripping over curbs, bumping into other walkers, or stepping into traffic, causing a rising number of injuries – from scrapes and bruises to sprains and fractures.” Hospital visits from distracted walkers has doubled between 2004 and 2010.

The AAOS study involved 2,000 respondents nationally and 4,000 from select urban areas.

Many respondents expressed that they had been in an accident or experienced an injury from distracted walking. Further results revealed:

  • Women over 55 are more likely to experience serious injury, and those 18 to 34, although they are the group that does the most distracted walking, experience the least injuries.
  • 70 percent of Millennials believe distracted walking is serious, compared to 81 percent of those over the age of 35. Half of Millennials believe distracted walking is “embarrassing in a funny way.”
  • Millennials are more likely to engage in distracted walking.
  • Americans view distracted driving and impaired driving as ‘very serious’ or ‘somewhat serious’ – 96 and 95 percent.

Many Americans are overconfident when it comes to their multitasking abilities. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they “just don’t think about it.” Twenty-eight percent noted they “can walk and do other things,” and 22 percent said they “are busy and want to use their time wisely.”

With the holiday season in full swing, many people now have too much to do and not enough time, so we are bound to see more distracted walking. The AAOS has offered solutions to help protect you and minimize distracted walking this holiday season.

  • If you must use headphones, keep them at a tolerable level so you can still hear what is going on around you.
  • When walking, focus on people as well as objects around you.
  • Don’t jaywalk – use appropriate crossings.
  • Look up, not down, so you can see where you are going.
  • Stay alert near traffic as parking lots become busier.
  • If you need to use devices or talk to someone, stop and move over to the side instead of standing in the middle of busy walkways.

Dr. Hilibrand concluded, “The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons urges pedestrians to avoid musculoskeletal and other injuries by engaging with their surroundings – drivers, bikers, other walkers and obstacles. Many of us simply need to force ourselves to set down our devices and focus on what’s in front of and around us. This will ensure that we safely arrive at our destination, during this busy holiday season and throughout the year.”


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