Distraction From Smartphones Changed Pedestrians’ Walking Behaviors in Open Areas

in Motor Control

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Yue LuoDepartment of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

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Nicolas GrimaldiCrayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

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Haolan ZhengDepartment of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

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Wayne C.W. GiangDepartment of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

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Boyi HuDepartment of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

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The prevalence of phone use has become a major concern for pedestrian safety. Using smartphones while walking reduces pedestrians’ ability to perceive the environment by increasing their cognitive, manual, and visual demands. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of common phone tasks (i.e., reading, tapping, gaming) on walking behaviors during outdoor walking. Nineteen young adults were instructed to complete four walking conditions (walking only, walking–reading, walking–tapping, and walking–gaming) along an open corridor. Results showed that all three phone tasks increased participants’ neck flexion (i.e., neck kyphosis) during walking. Meanwhile, the reading task showed a greater influence on the temporal aspect during the early phases of a gait cycle. The tapping task lowered the flexion angles of the middle and lower back (i.e., torso lordosis) and induced a longer terminal double support. And the gaming task resulted in a decrease in middle back flexion, a shorter stride length, and a longer terminal double support while walking. Findings from the study confirmed our hypothesis that phone tasks changed pedestrians’ physical responses to smartphone distraction while walking. To avoid potential risks caused by the observed posture and gait adaptations, safety precautions (e.g., roadside/electronic warning signals) might be imposed depending on the workload expected by different phone tasks.

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