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Summary

Sending and receiving text messages on cell phones is increasingly common. Texting while walking or driving, however, increases the likelihood of accidents. One possible cause is that distracted individuals are unable to detect safe opportunities for action. To investigate this, we asked participants to walk through doorways of differing widths while holding or texting on their phone. We measured walking speed, doorway-to-shoulder-width ratio, and the number of bumps into the doorframes. Our results revealed that texters were more cautious than non-texters; they walked slower and rotated their body through doorways they could have safely walked straight through. There were no significant differences, however, in the number of bumps into the doorframes. If texters in the real world behave like those in our laboratory, then the number of texting-related accidents reported in other studies might suggest that being overcautious while texting does not actually decrease the likelihood of accidents. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.