Risks of distracted texting don’t stop a lot of people from doing it

Your Niskayuna intern Elena Grande demonstrates proper form for the improper act of walking while texting.Photo: Rebecca IsenhartYour Niskayuna intern Elena Grande demonstrates proper form for the improper act of walking while texting.<br />Photo: Rebecca Isenhart
Your Niskayuna intern Elena Grande demonstrates proper form for the improper act of walking while texting.Photo: Rebecca Isenhart

Your Niskayuna intern Elena Grande demonstrates proper form for the improper act of walking while texting.
Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

By ELENA GRANDE
For Your Niskayuna

NISKAYUNA — Seventeen-year-old Alex Del Vecchio was enjoying conversation with his mother at last year’s Niska-Day celebration when all of a sudden a pre-teen girl, walking toward them while texting, rammed into his back. Her momentum caused him to fall into his mom, who then spilled her lemonade all over her shirt.

Texting while walking has become a trend and has resulted in accidents ranging from minor and comical to life-threatening. A 2012 Pew study found that 53 percent of cellphone owners over the age of 18 had either bumped into someone while texting or been bumped into.

The same year, researchers at Stony Brook University tested 33 volunteers on their ability to walk toward a target while texting. They were 61 percent more likely to wander off course when their vision was blocked by a phone.

People often deem this cellular addiction to be just another teenage problem. However, studies show it is a practice by people of all ages. The Pew study showed that people between the ages of 18 and 24 were most likely to text while walking, but no age group was exempt: 10 percent of those 55-64 said they had bumped into something while texting, and 4 percent of people over 65 admitted it.

Risky behavior

It can be comical to catch a friend or classmate in a slapstick moment thanks to an ill-timed text, but using a cellular device while traveling around busy streets and hallways can be risky.

Lauren Rector, a junior at Niskayuna High School, recently witnessed a classmate suffer the consequences of texting while walking.

“I was on my way to the school cafeteria when I saw a kid walking toward the entrance while simultaneously scrolling through his phone run straight into the door leading the lunch room,” she said. Luckily, she added, the only thing hurt during the incident was the student’s pride.

It seems to be a habit for young people that extends outside the United States. A former German exchange student at Niskayuna High School, Jon Wischiniowski, age 16, offered a firsthand experience of the dangers of cellular distraction.

“A year ago, there was a power cut or a power blackout in our house at night. So my brother and I went outside to check if the power [was] also cut in other houses,” he said.

“While reading something on Facebook about a power cut in our whole city, I collided with a street lamp very hard,” he said, laughing. “After that, I continued reading my messages, and a second later I collided with another street lamp.

“For me, it was very funny,” Wischiniowski added.

Texting while walking also has plagued some adults. Niskayuna resident and mother of two Helen Draffen, offered her opinion on the trend.

“I’m happy to report that I have not yet had an accident resulting from texting while mobile,” Draffen said, “probably because I am unable to do both at the same time, so I always stand still!”

Too many tasks

Apparently, texting while walking requires a knack for multitasking, and it’s a skill many lack.

Del Vecchio said that’s for the best.

“I thinks people should stay focused on one task at a time,” he said. “If they attempt to text and walk at the same time, it almost always leads to an accident.”

So what can be done to stop such a silly, yet increasingly prevalent phenomenon?

The easy answer is also the best: Put the cellphone away when doing things that require undivided attention like walking or driving.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.