Texting poses higher risk to pedestrians than calling or listening to music

Smartphone texting is more dangerous in terms of pedestrian safety with higher rates of “near misses” than listening to music or talking on the phone according to the latest analysis.

Findings show higher rates of people failing to look left and right before crossing with texting linked to compromised safety.

The findings published online in the journal Injury Prevention looked at pooled analysis of the available evidence.

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Worldwide, around 270,000 pedestrians die every year, accounting for around a fifth of all road traffic deaths.

Recent study shows texting is more dangerous for pedestrians compared to calling or listening to music

“Pedestrian distraction” has become a recognised safety issue as more and more people use their smartphones or hand-held devices while walking on the pavement and crossing roads.

To try and gauge the potential impact on road safety of hand-held/hands-free device activities, including talking on the phone, text messaging, browsing and listening to music, the researchers looked for published evidence.

From among 33 relevant studies, they pooled the data from 14 (involving 872 people) and systematically reviewed the data from another eight.

They looked specifically at: time taken to start walking or begin crossing the road; missed opportunities to cross safely; time taken to cross the road; looking left and right before or during crossing; and collisions and close calls with other pedestrians and vehicles.

The pooled data analysis showed that listening to music wasn’t associated with any heightened risk of potentially harmful pedestrian behaviours.

Talking on the phone was associated with a small increase in the time taken to start crossing the road and slightly more missed opportunities to cross the road safely.

However, text messaging emerged as the potentially most harmful behaviour.

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It was associated with significantly lower rates of looking left and right right before and/or while crossing the road, and with moderately increased rates of collisions and close calls with other pedestrians or vehicles.

It also affected the time taken to cross a road and missed opportunities to cross safely, but to a lesser extent.

The review of the eight observational studies revealed that the percentage of pedestrians who were distracted ranged from 12 to 45 per cent, and that behaviours were influenced by several factors, including gender, time of day, solo or group crossing, and walking speed.

Scottish Conservative health spokesperson, Miles Briggs, said: “This is a very worthwhile piece of research that has established a clear link between smartphone use and pedestrian safety.

“Looking at a smartphone can easily distract a person and make them less aware of a potentially hazardous situation. It is vital that society understands the heightened risk of an accident when someone is focusing on their smartphone rather than their surroundings.”