Distracted walking: A serious issue for you, not me

December 02, 2015

A new study on distracted walking released today by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) finds that more than three quarters (78 percent) of U.S. adults believe that distracted walking is a "serious" issue; however, 74 percent of Americans say "other people" are usually or always walking while distracted, while only 29 percent say the same about themselves.

This sense of "it's not me, it's you" cuts across a range of distracted walking behaviors: Despite the obvious risks associated with distracted walking, as many believe it is "embarrassing in a silly way" as feel it is "dangerous" (46 percent). Furthermore, 31 percent say distracted walking is "something I'm likely to do" and 22 percent think distracted walking is "funny," according to the study conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs during October 2015.

"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," said Alan Hilibrand, MD, AAOS spokesperson. Emergency department hospital visits for injuries involving distracted pedestrians on cell phones more than doubled between 2004 and 2010, according to a 2013 study appearing in the journal Accident, Analysis & Prevention.

The AAOS research, which involved more than 2,000 respondents nationally and another 4,000, total, in select urban areas, found that nearly four out of 10 Americans say they have personally witnessed a distracted walking incident, and just over a quarter (26 percent) say they have been in an incident themselves.Can we talk and walk at the same time?

One of challenges in combatting distracted walking may be that Americans are overly confident in their ability to multitask. When asked why they walk distracted, 48 percent of respondents say "they just don't think about it," 28 percent feel "they can walk and do other things," and 22 percent "are busy and want to use their time productively."

Among distracted walking behaviors, 75 percent of respondents say they themselves "usually/always" or "sometimes" have "active conversations" with another person they are walking with, making this the most common distracted walking behavior people admit to doing themselves.

Perceptions vary by city, region Additionally, 500 people were surveyed in eight markets: New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Phoenix, Seattle, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Among those findings:Walk safely, especially during this busy holiday season

Earlier this year, AAOS launched the "Digital Deadwalkers" public service announcement (PSA) campaign, featuring radio and television segments, airing through the end of 2016 throughout the U.S., that humorously but effectively highlight the dangers of distracted walking, while urging pedestrians to "engage!"

The AAOS also offers the following tips to help pedestrians stay injury free, when walking indoors and outdoors, especially during this busy holiday season: "The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges pedestrians to avoid musculoskeletal and other injuries by engaging with their surroundings--drivers, bikers, other walkers and obstacles," said Dr. Hilibrand. "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."

More information on distracted walking can be found at: OrthoInfo.org/DistractedPedestrians.
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American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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