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Seen At 11: Cornell Grad Students Working On App To Protect Texters From Themselves

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Humans may have mastered the art of walking and chewing gum, but not necessarily the art of walking and texting.

As CBS2's Maurice Dubois explained, extreme new safety measures are aimed at protecting people from texting and walking.

"Clearly, it's a huge distraction when you're trying to focus on those two different activities," said Stony Brook University associate professor Lisa Muratori.

They are two different activities that when combined put as many as 1,500 pedestrians in the emergency room every year.

"They're bumping into obstacles. They're bumping into each other; walking off curbs," Muratori said.

People are so engaged they've walked into traffic, even been hit by cars.

"Flying through the air thinking, 'What the hell?' Hit the ground," John Spencer said.

Texting while walking is such a phenomenon it prompted researchers at Stony Brook University to study the habit.

The school tested 33 men and women on their ability to walk and text.

They asked each participant to walk to a certain spot, then they asked them to do so wearing a hood to obscure their vision. In the end researchers watched as participants wore the hood and texted.

Incredibly, most correctly arrived at the spot blindly, but 61 percent couldn't do it while texting as well.

"It really is altering what you're doing. There's a potential that you could put yourself in a dangerous situation," Associate Professor Eric Lamberg said.

In the U.K., one company tried to prevent that by putting bumpers around lampposts on a busy shopping street.

In china it's gotten so bad that special texting lanes have been created.

A team of graduate students at Cornell University hoped to come up with a solution by creating an app that helps texters avoid stepping into traffic.

"The point is if their smartphone is the source of the problem, their smartphone can also be the source of the solution," Mani Miri said.

The app is designed to let users know when it is safe to walk.

"When the red hand comes up, that red hand notification will be pushed from the light pole to the screen of their phone alerting them that it's not safe to walk," Emily McAllister said.

The students hope the app may potentially save lives, but other say there is an even simpler solution.

"If it's a really important text, stop, read the text, and then continue on," Muratori said.


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