Orthopaedic Surgeons: Beware of Distracted Walking

You’ve heard of distracted driving, but what about the problems with distracted walking? A new survey from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons takes a closer look.

Someone may not think twice when texting and walking, but a new study found it’s a big problem people are tired of dealing with.

A survey released last week by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says 78 percent of people think distracted walking is a serious issue. But 74 percent are pointing their fingers elsewhere and blaming the problem on others, while only 29 percent admit to being guilty themselves.

It’s not just an issue of people walking slowly or erratically and clogging up sidewalk traffic. Distracted walking can result in pedestrian accidents and injuries.

“Today, the dangers of the ‘digital deadwalker’ are growing with more and more pedestrians falling down stairs, tripping over curbs, bumping into other walkers, or stepping into traffic causing a rising number of injuries—from scrapes and bruises to sprains and fractures,” AAOS spokesperson Alan Hilibrand, MD, said in a statement.

The most common distraction, based on 2,000 national respondents and 4,000 in specific urban areas, is talking on the phone—90 percent of those surveyed reported seeing people engage in phone conversations while walking. Other common distractions include holding conversations, listening to music, and using a smartphone.

But the perception of just how problematic distracted walking is differs based on the city. According to responses from 500 people in eight cities, New York City residents are most likely to view distracted walking as a serious issue or admit to walking distracted. Chicago and Philadelphia residents are most likely to agree distracted walking is dangerous, while Houstonians are most likely to disagree.

“I think if you’re in a city where there are more walkers, it’s going to be a bigger problem,” AAOS Director of Public Relations Melissa Leeb said in an interview with Associations Now. “I think it’s safe to say on any given week day there are going to be more people out walking the streets of Manhattan around New York City than there are in Houston, so maybe the more walkers there are, the bigger of a problem it is or the more it’s perceived as a problem.”

The survey comes in the midst of the academy’s “Digital Deadwalkers” campaign. After hearing a number of anecdotes from members, AAOS launched the PSA to prevent injuries associated with distracted walking by making people more aware of the risks.

“If people can realize they’re guilty of this and they can do something to be more aware of it, that’s really the goal of this campaign,” Leeb said.

The campaign began at the beginning of this year and will run through the end of 2016. While the video takes a humorous angle on distracted walking, Leeb said this is a critical issue AAOS wants to address.

“You’ve seen the videos of people walking into the glass walls and falling into the fountains and all that kind of thing—that can be sort of funny,” she said. “But just know there’s a serious side to it, too.”


Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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