Montreal

Texting while walking makes you 'zombie-like,' says Montreal researcher

Pedestrians are putting their safety at risk by texting while walking in a "zombie-like state," a Montreal researcher says.

30% of people who text while walking make bad decisions

People are concentrated on their phones, but blind to their external environment, says Montreal researcher Pierre-Majorique Léger. (Ben Margot/Associated Press)

Pedestrians are putting their safety at risk by texting while walking in a "zombie-like state," a Montreal researcher says.

HEC Montreal researcher Pierre-Majorique Léger found that 30 per cent of people who text while walking make bad decisions because they're not concentrating.

"They're in a zombie-like state … They're so concentrated on their phones, but blind to their external environment. They're like zombies," said Léger.

Léger is co-author of a ongoing study on mobile multitasking distraction.

The mix of walking and fine motor functions while interacting with a phone reduces one's capacity for making decisions, Léger said.

"The level of interactivity has a big impact," Léger said, adding that those risks are amplified by augmented reality games like Pokemon Go.

Such games increase concentration on one's phone and "the promise of finding the monsters" heightens stress, leading to reduced awareness of one's surroundings, Léger said.

Those playing augmented reality games like Pokemon Go face higher risks. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

In Quebec City, the start of the Pokemon Go craze has corresponded with a spike in 911 calls to report dangerous pedestrians.

Quebec's automobile insurance agency, the SAAQ, has been warning about the dangers of walking and texting for years.

"People who text while walking need to be aware and should stop and find a bench or a safe place to text, especially when they're approaching a traffic artery," said SAAQ spokesman Mario Vaillancourt.

Toronto is considering a municipal ban on using a cell phone while walking in crosswalks and on roadways, a move that one Vancouver city councillor would like to see replicated there.

With files from Radio-Canada's Aude Brassard-Halle

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