As reported by an ABC news affiliate in South Bend, Indiana, a woman named Bonnie Miller fell into a river connected to Lake Michigan while she was attempting to walk along a pier and send a text message at the same time. Miller was strolling along the pier with her family and realized that she had to correct an appointment time via a text message. As she was writing the text message, Miller didn’t pay attention to how close she was to the edge of the pier and ending up tripping into approximately six feet of cold water.
Miller’s husband and a 19-year old bystander jumped into the water to help her reach a ladder that led back to the top of the pier. A police officer also used a flotation device attached to a rope to help guide the group to the ladder.
While Miller was definitely embarrassed by the incident, she wants people to understand how texting while walking can be a problem. In an interview with the news affiliate, Miller stated “I couldn’t let pride stand in my way of warning other people to not drive and text or walk and text. It can be dangerous.”
Earlier this year, a research team at Stony Brook University conducted a study around texting while walking and found that participants consistently veered away from walking a straight path by a 60 percent deviation. Wandering to the left or right could easily explain how Bonnie Miller found herself falling off the edge of the pier. The amount of distance traveled by people within the study increased by 13 percent and participants took approximately 33 percent longer to reach a destination when texting while walking. The research team also found that walking while talking on a cell phone increased travel time by about 16 percent.
The number of falling incidents when texting while talking that have been captured on video and published on the Internet has increased over the last few years. During February 2012, a live CBC broadcast caught a woman’s fall down a section of steps while she was texting while walking and the video is nearing four million views on YouTube. During January 2011, a woman named Cathy Cruz Marrero caught national attention after a security guard at a shopping mall released footage of Marrero tripping and falling into the mall’s fountain after texting while walking. Marrero hired an attorney shortly after the incident specifically to go after the mall’s management for allowing the footage to be leaked onto the Internet.
Another study published in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Pediatrics journal during 2009 found that children that text or talk on a cell phone while walking near or on a street are 40 percent more likely to get hit by an automobile. During April 2011, lawmakers in Rexburg, Idaho rolled out a new law that fines pedestrians $50 for texting while walking in order to dissuade people from the practice. Documentary maker Casey Neistat also recently created a somewhat comedic public service announcement for people that text while walking. Within the video, Neistat equates the practice to walking the streets with a blindfold on and recommends that people stop walking to stand against a building while texting.
For consumers with Android-powered smartphones, a application developer named Sascha Affolter has created an app called Transparent Screen that uses the camera to show what’s directly in front of the user while walking. The transparency effect can be adjusted by the user and works when texting or using other applications like Google Maps.