Special Reports

Walking and texting: how good are you?

Friday, February 25, 2011

It was the splash seen around the world a woman falling face first into a shopping mall fountain as she was texting and walking. Her plunge went viral but cameras are apparently missing a pretty good montage of mobile mishaps.

Here are some confessions:

"I have a tendency of walking into doors while I am texting."

"I run into people sometimes."

"I have tripped over fire hydrants. I have fallen into snow. I've walked into puddles a thousand times."

"I can make dinner while I'm texting."

"I can text and chew gum. I can text and have a conversation at the same time."

"I'm usually pretty good, my peripheral vision, I can make things out."

No matter how good we think we are at text multi-tasking research consultant Peter Hecht said texting and walking is really a dangerous combo because our brains suffer system overload.

"You're kind of activating the same parts of the brain, so if one is taking up that chunk of the brain the other one can't get in," he said.

We counted ten seconds before one texter looked up from her phone.

Hecht compared it to highway hypnosis.

"You actually might take the information in but you're not going to see, so it's like being wide open blind."

We conducted our own little unofficial experiment and planted our producer, Heather Grubola in University City. She was holding a sign that said "wave if you're texting". We wanted to find out whether any texters were paying attention.

Right away, we caught two people who missed the sign.

During our time outside a few people did notice and waved. But Ricker Gould just passed us by.

We asked him what would happen if he walked into something.

"I would be embarrassed. Very embarrassed, especially if I miss a street sign for walk and I walk and a car comes."

A few folks also failed to catch our sign in Center City and in Rittenhouse Square, where David Turcott wasn't surprised.

"I have fallen down some stairs. I have definitely walked into a few things, signs, probably walls."

Besides the obvious advice of keeping your eyes open and your phone shut, Hecht said if you're going to text, don't be overconfident and do be cautious.

"Stop and check where you are, especially if you are coming to a corner or intersection, don't do it while crossing a street."

The results of our 6abc.com online poll where we asked how often do you text while walking:
12% always
61% sometimes
27% never

We also asked if you do text while walking have you had a mishap:
26% have bumped into something or someone
14% have tripped
60% have never had a mishap

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