Blinded By The Text: Distracted Pedestrians, And Must-See Herzog

This article is more than 8 years old.

If, in the midst of driving, you get that sudden pang to check your phone, or even worse, text, don't succumb.

That's the message from the acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog’s latest documentary about texting while driving — the "must-see" video of the weekend.  The 30-minute flick, on view above, depicts harrowing testimonials of victims, their family members and perpetrators whose decision to keep their eyes on their phones instead of the road had egregious consequences.

Texting while driving is a dangerous trend that is sparking new legislation banning the practice in numerous states including Massachusetts.  On the rise, however, is another cellphone-related public danger – but one that doesn’t get as much attention as texting in the driver’s seat - texting while walking.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

talking on cellphones while on foot – or “distracted walking” — was the cause of approximately 1,500 injuries in 2010 – which up from 550 injuries in 2004. This study is mentioned in a number of articles that have started popping up on the public safety risks of  pedestrians distracted by their cellphone-use.

In a recent post, The Atlantic reported on studies that examined the attention status of pedestrians while talking on their phones:

In one experiment from a few years back, pedestrians talking on their phones recalled less of their surroundings than did regular walkers. In another test, researchers confirmed this "inattentional blindness" when they found that, compared to typical pedestrians, people talking and walking were less likely to notice even something as ridiculous as a clown on a unicycle.

Last month, an article in the Boston Globe illustrated the deviating tendencies of texting pedestrians:

Researchers at Stony Brook University studied the gait and posture of pedestrians using mobile devices and found that texters were most likely to deviate from a straight line, walk more slowly, and even forget the path they had just traveled

Fox News reported that, according to the Injury Prevention study, walkers distracted by texting were far less likely to use common traffic safety precautions than those who kept their cellphones in their pockets:

On average, music listeners walked slightly faster than undistracted pedestrians, but texters took 18 percent longer to cross the street. Moreover, the texters were nearly four times more likely to disobey traffic signals, cross mid-intersection, or walk without looking both ways—an obvious recipe for disaster

A USA Today article breaks down some of the psychological components of diverted attention that come into play while traversing public spaces:

Psychological studies show most people can't focus on two things at once. Rather, their attention shifts rapidly back and forth between tasks, and performance suffers. But like a lot of drivers who use cellphones behind the wheel, pedestrians often think they're in control and that it's all the other fools on their phones who aren't watching what they're doing.

Though some communities have attempted to counteract the growing trend of injuries from distracted walking, it remains to be seen if legislation around this practice will be a widespread trend.  Until Herzog makes a follow-up documentary about the perils of texting while walking, it may be in the public’s best interest to save texts for stationary parts of the day. 

This program aired on August 12, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.



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