Researchers have discovered that people who text while walking along have developed new skills to keep them safe.
A so-called “protective shuffle” has evolved that makes bumping into obstacles or tripping over objects less likely.
Far from being unaware of the people and things around them, texting walkers are actually taking more care than others, according to academics at the University of Bath and Texas in the US.
The research revealed that texters changed their walking patterns in a study that asked participants between the ages of 18 and 50 to navigate obstacles whilst using devices.
The results showed that when texting, people slow their pace and make specific moves to adapt as they move through their environment.
The lead author of the study, Sammy Licence of the University of Bath, said: “Texting while walking significantly affects gait characteristics.”
“While one might infer that these alterations in gait might increase the risk for tripping, our analysis showed no significant difference,” he explained.
Problems and solutions
The research, which was published in the journal PLOS One, found that it took texters 26 per cent longer to complete the test. It also discovered that texting walkers lifted their legs higher when they negotiated obstacles.
However, people engrossed in texting whilst walking can cause problems for others. Last month in Belgium, the city of Antwerp introduced exclusive “text walking lanes”.
Although the National Geographic TV channel tried a similar scheme last summer in Washington, D.C., Antwerp’s initiative is the first time such a programme has been introduced in Europe.