Texting-related injuries on the rise

Clumsy Kiwis have fallen into gutters, crashed into trees and collided with other people while texting and walking.

Figures released by the Accident Compensation Corporation showed 35 accidents last year resulting in injuries involved people texting on cellphones - up from 22 in 2009.

But Stephanie Melville of ACC said the numbers could be much higher because the organisation relies on details given by the injured person after the accident.

The figures come as new research from Australian scientists shows that texting while walking slows down movement, decreases spatial awareness and increases the likelihood of being injured or hit by cars.

Examples of ACC claims involving walking while texting include, "Walked into lamp-post while texting on phone and injured my face" and "texting while walking, walked into another person and tripped over, hit face on concrete floor".

In one case, a person was injured while running and texting, another was "texting and walking, hit head and neck on an open window edge".

The scientists from the University of Queensland say texting - and to a lesser extent reading content such as emails - modifies movement while walking.

In comparison with normal walking, when the study's participants texted, they walked more slowly, deviated more from a straight line and moved their neck less.

One of the study's authors, Dr Siobhan Schabrun, said the research showed that in a pedestrian environment the inability of texters to maintain their balance or walk in a straight path "may impact the safety of people who text and walk at the same time".

The study in the scientific journal PLOS One said the dangers of texting while driving had received much interest but attention had only recently shifted to safety risks linked to texting and walking.

It showed people who texted crossing the street in a virtual pedestrian environment were more likely to be distracted and suffered more hits by motor vehicles.

It also found that using the email function on a cellphone reduces gait velocity, stride length and stance phase.

"These findings, coupled with a sharp increase in the number of pedestrians injured while talking or texting on a mobile phone since 2006, have led to bans on texting while walking in some towns in the United States."

Dangerous liaisons

Accidents 'involving texting'

2009 22

2010 30

2011 35

2012 23

2013 35

Accident Compensation Corporation

- James Ihaka of the New Zealand Herald

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