Researchers have said that walking while talking on mobile phones may be dangerous for older people.
They also say that just listening to music on an iPod or other portable device doesn't pack the same risks as talking on a cell phone.
The findings are based on two lab-based studies in which participants had to manoeuvre on a treadmill to cross a virtual street.
"Many people assume that walking is so automatic that really nothing will get in the way," Live Science quoted Art Kramer, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois who conducted the research, as saying in a statement.
"But actually walking in environments that have lots of obstacles is perhaps not as automatic as one might think," Kramer added.
Participants in the study took their virtual stroll on a manual treadmill that only moves when the person walks.
The first study, with 36 college students, showed that students trying to hold a phone conversation took 25 percent longer to cross the street compared with those without phones and those listening to iPods.
Cell-phone users were also less likely to finish crossing the street in the 30 seconds allotted for the task.
However, the young adults were not more likely to get hit by a virtual car even if they were talking on a cell phone. The study was published online Nov. 5 in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.
The second study, yet to be published, focused on people 60 and older.
"Older adults on the phone got run over about 15 percent more often [than those not on the phone]," Kramer said.
Subjects who had a history of falling fared even worse.
"Walking and talking on the phone while old, especially, appears to be dangerous," Kramer said.