Dumbwalking is the practice of walking slowly and without looking where you are going because you are looking at your mobile phone. Pedestrians using cell phones are impaired and too mentally distracted to fully focus on their surroundings causing them to trip, cross roads unsafely or walk into motionless objects such as street signs, doors, walls or even off cliffs. Given the ubiquity of smartphones, social media, apps, digital video and streaming music, which has infiltrated most aspects of daily life, distracted walking and street crossing will be a road safety issue for the foreseeable future.
According to a Pew Research survey in mid-2012, 53% of all adult cell owners have been on either the giving or receiving end of a “distracted walking” encounter.
The survey found that 23% of cell owners have physically bumped into another person or object because they were distracted by using their phone. This is a up from the 17% of mobile owners who said that this had happened in 2010. In addition, 50% of cell owners say that they have been bumped into by another person because that person was distracted by using their own cellphone.
Young adults (in particular those ages 18-24) are especially prone to experience these “distracted walking” encounters. Half of these young cell owners (51%) have bumped into a person or object because they were busy paying attention to their phone, and 70% have been bumped into by another person who was distracted by using their own cellphone.
According to the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Injury Facts 2015 report, distracted walking caused over 11,000 injuries between 2000 and 2011. Of all the people injured in distracted walking accidents, more than half were age 40 or younger.
In Japan, the mobile giant NTT Docomo released a simulation (2014) of what would happen there if everyone crossing was doing the smartphone walk. It concluded that there would be more than 400 collisions every time, and most likely just 36% of people would get across.