London: Using a mobile phone while driving is already an illegal offence but a new study has warned that using a phone as a pedestrian can be just as hazardous.

The University of Washington study found that those texting while crossing the road are four times more likely to ignore oncoming traffic. Texters also took longer to cross the street at busy junctions, a daily reported.

Study leader Dr Beth Ebel, of Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, University of Washington, said, like drink driving, there should be a 'low tolerance' approach to pedestrian behaviour that puts both them and others at risk of serious injury.

In the study 1,100 people were observed crossing 20 busy road junctions this summer at different times of the day, including the morning rush hour.

Just under 30 per cent of pedestrians were doing something else when they crossed the road, according to a report published in the journal Injury Prevention.

One in 10 were listening to music, seven per cent were texting; and six per cent were talking on the phone.
The study revealed that those who were distracted took significantly longer to cross the road - 0.75 to1.29 seconds longer.

While listening to music speeded up the time taken to cross the road, those doing it were less likely to look both ways before doing so.

People distracted by pets or children were almost three times as likely not to look both ways.

But texting was potentially the most risky behaviour, as texters took almost two seconds (18 per cent) longer to cross the average junction of three to four lanes than those who weren't texting at the time.

They were also almost four times more likely to ignore lights, to cross at the middle of the junction, or fail to look both ways before stepping off the kerb.

Dr Ebel said young teenagers and young adults were the biggest culprits.

She suggested that advertising campaigns similar to those getting people to obey the law and wear seatbelts could make people aware of the risks of mobile phone use.


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