Everybody Blames Everyone Else For Distracted Walking, Study Finds

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According to a recent study [PDF] by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs, 78 percent of U.S. adults believe distracted walking behaviors like talking on the phone, listening to music, or texting while walking are a “serious issue.” But only 29 percent admit to walking while distracted themselves. It’s easier to pick up on the distracted behaviors of others, it seems, than to notice them in ourselves—the study also found that 74 percent of the people surveyed believed “other people” were the ones with the distraction problem. 

Whether or not you’re what the AAOS calls a “digital deadwalker”—someone too plugged into their mobile device to notice their surroundings—the AAOS encourages people to pay more attention to what they’re doing as they walk. While most young people are resilient enough to bounce back after bumping into someone, older people can suffer real injuries from a collision, and the AAOS study found that women aged 55 and over were most likely to be seriously injured after a distracted walking incident.

While it seems the AAOS is primarily interested in discouraging distracted walking (they go so far as to suggest stepping to the side of the street if you want to talk at all), the study also dug up some interesting stats on regional pedestrian habits. New York City, it seems, is most likely to see distracted walking as a serious issue, while Seattle residents are the most cavalier about the issue. New Yorkers are also, apparently, the most likely to own up to being distracted walkers themselves.

The AAOS recognizes that distracted walking might not sound like a real problem—and, in fact, many of the people surveyed thought the issue was “funny” or just “embarrassing in a silly way”—but they claim there can be real dangers involved. "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," Alan Hilibrand, orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson explained. "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." 

[h/t: Eureka Alert!]