February 27, 2014

While crossing a busy East Side intersection earlier today, I was almost hit by a turning bus. The white walking man symbol gave me the right-of-way, but I’m quite sure if I hadn’t jumped up and down, waved my arms and screamed to get the oncoming behemoth’s attention, I would not be here to pen this post.

As I continued my walk curbside, I said to myself, “Well, I’m glad I wasn’t texting.”

dot
A short-lived and snarky 2012 DOT ad campaign calling attention to the reality of NYC text-walking.

Turns out my scrape with death isn’t the only evidence suggesting that our all-too-common practice of walking and texting is unsafe. This week, The New York Times published an article discussing a recent Australian study, with findings supporting the theory that texting while walking isn’t just rude, it could be bad for your health. Making participants walk with cell phone in hand, then reading from cell phone in hand, then texting, the researchers videotaped each pattern. People who texted while walking appeared to become human robots, adopting a stiff gait, swerving path and tendency to trip. The study equated this observation with that of an elderly person with cognitive dysfunction, prone to falling and other motion-related accidents. And this simulation was done in an empty hallway, not on the chaotic streets of New York.

Looks like it might be in our favor to pocket our phones on the streets, and pull our weight in the new mayor’s plan to eliminate all traffic-related deaths in the city. But how might the ever-multi-tasking New Yorker’s text habits be harnessed? As much as I plan to curb the habit, I sure hope the future of Vision Zero doesn’t include tickets for text-walking.