While the dangers of talking on the phone at the wheel are well-known, there’s a new cell phone hazard catching unwary users off guard. According a study by Stony Brook University, those who text while walking are 60 percent more likely to veer off route than non-texters, a phenomenon which may be contributing to the rising number of pedestrian injuries nationwide. Though researchers estimate actual figures to be much higher, preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association projects an 11% increase in pedestrian fatalities in 2016 from 2015, and a 22 percent increase since 2014.
Distracted walking isn’t only dangerous, but discourteous to other pedestrians. The chances of injuring yourself or those around you increase drastically when your eyes are glued to your phone, and even minor bumps and jostles from distracted walking can be read as a sign of disrespect. If you’re one of the millions of U.S. Americans who like to walk and text, here are three reasons to turn a new leaf during National Etiquette Week.
- It’s Unmannerly: Accidentally brushing shoulders with someone on the sidewalk is one thing, but causing a full-frontal collision because you were checking your Snapchat is simply rude and inconsiderate. Distracted walkers also slow their pace significantly, forcing others to either plod along at a sloth’s pace, or try and walk around them. Be conscious of those around you. Wait until you reach your destination, you are sitting down, or out of the way before going online.
- An Inefficient System: Chances are that if you’re reading an important email while walking down the street, your attention isn’t 100% focused on the content. Sidewalk distractions will often cause you to skim over important details or make embarrassing typos, which will cost you in the office. Make sure that when you’re reading digital messages you give your undivided attention to the words, instead of risking a missed detail or only partially understanding the message.
- Safety First: The biggest risk associated with distracted walking is of course injury to yourself or other pedestrians. According to Safety.com, common risks associated with distracted walking include injuring someone else, trips, sprains, fractures, broken bones, and concussions. In fact, injuries in Pomona Valley, California prompted new legislation that outlaws distracted walking with a hefty fine. Whether you’re a “petextrian” typing out a message while crossing the street, or a driver forced to swerve around an unaware texter, distracted walking poses a serious safety risk to everyone on the road. For your own wellbeing and that of those around you, put down the phone until it’s safe to text.
Not only a sign of courtesy and respect, refraining from distracted walking also promotes the safety of everyone on the sidewalk. While distracted walking may be a tough habit to break, consider these three reasons to hold off on your handheld while on the street.
Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.