Be on the Look Out for a "Digital Deadwalker"


On Wednesday  A new study on distracted walking  by American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) was released and finds that more than three quarters (78 percent) of U.S. adults believe that distracted walking is a “serious” issue; however, 74 percent of Americans say “other people” are usually or always walking while distracted, while only 29 percent say the same about themselves.

This sense of “it’s not me, it’s you” cuts across a range of distracted walking behaviors:

  • 90 percent say they see walkers talking on the phone (and 37 percent admit doing so themselves)
  • 88 percent are engaging in conversation (vs. 75 percent themselves)
  • 88 percent are listening to music (vs. 34 percent themselves)
  • 85 percent are using a smartphone (vs. 28 percent themselves)
  • 64 percent are generally “zoning out,” or not focused on walking (vs. 38 percent themselves)

Can we talk and walk at the same time?

One of the challenges in combating distracted walking may be that Americans are overly confident in their ability to multitask. When asked why they walk distracted, 48 percent of respondents say “they just don’t think about it,” 28 percent feel “they can walk and do other things,” and 22 percent “are busy and want to use their time productively.”

Among distracted walking behaviors, 75 percent of respondents say they themselves “usually/always” or “sometimes” have “active conversations” with another person they are walking with, making this the most common distracted walking behavior people admit to doing themselves.

Walk safely, especially during this busy holiday season

Earlier this year, AAOS launched the “Digital Deadwalkers” public service announcement (PSA) campaign, featuring radio and television segments, airing through the end of 2016 throughout the U.S., that humorously but effectively highlight the dangers of distracted walking, while urging pedestrians to “engage!”

The AAOS also offers the following tips to help pedestrians stay injury free, when walking indoors and outdoors, especially during this busy holiday season:

  • If you must use headphones or other electronic devices, maintain a volume where you can still hear the sounds of traffic and your surroundings.
  • While you walk, focus on the people, as well as the objects and obstacles in front of and around you.
  • Don't jaywalk. Cross streets carefully, preferably at a traffic light, remaining cognizant of the pedestrian traffic flow and the cars and bikes in and near the road.
  • Look up, not down, especially when stepping off or onto curbs or in the middle of major intersections; and/or when walking or approaching on stairs or escalators.
  • Traffic can be especially busy during the holidays—stay alert in mall and other parking lots, and on and near streets, especially during the winter months when it gets dark earlier.
  • If you need to talk to a child or the person next to you, make a phone call, text or other action that could distract you from the goal of getting where you need to go safely, stop and do so away from the pedestrian traffic flow.

“The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges pedestrians to avoid musculoskeletal and other injuries by engaging with their surroundings—drivers, bikers, other walkers and obstacles,” said Dr. Hilibrand. “Many of us simply need to force ourselves to set down our devices and focus on what’s in front of and around us. This will ensure that we safely arrive at our destination, during this busy holiday season and throughout the year.”