Texting While Walking Can Lead to Serious Teen Injury

Ask Diane Simon to tell you the worst injury she’s seen caused by texting while walking and she’ll say it was a broken neck.

“The person tripped over an obstacle on the sidewalk and then fell against a building, fracturing the vertebrae,” Simon says. “It took at least six months of rehab to heal. That was six months this trauma victim will never get back.”

Simon, RN, CEN, and Trauma Coordinator/Registrar for ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital, says injuries from texting (and other activities involving phones) while walking are more common than those from texting while driving, though the latter are “more tragic because the injuries are more severe.”

In fact, Simon says she continues to see a “steady increase” in the number of texting-while-walking injuries, the most common of which are arm and leg fractures and head injuries. Most victims of texting-while-walking accidents, Simon says, are from ages 16-26 and female, which is “interesting because most trauma victims are actually male, except in this category.”

A study done by Safe Kids Worldwide seems to support Simon’s observation that there’s an increase in these types of injuries. Of the 1,040 teens from ages 13-18 interviewed to find out what they do on their phones while walking, many reported talking, browsing through websites, listening to music, and texting while crossing the street. Two in five teens reported to have been hit or nearly hit by a bike, car or motorcycle while walking and using electronic devices.

Of course, parents often feel at a loss when it comes to communicating that using a phone while walking is dangerous. Simon says parents can, however, take a stand. “It can be effective to explain, educate and set priorities with children, adolescents and teens. Parents can communicate that the No. 1 priority is that their children get home safely. Parents can also ask their children to stop and stand in one place while reading text messages and while sending them.”

Simon would like everyone to simply refuse to text while walking. “It might be helpful for people to know that once you break a leg, an arm, your neck, it’s never quite the same. There’s a very good chance you will live with some kind of chronic pain.”

Does your teen text while walking? What do you do to prevent it?