A new study found walking while talking on the cell phone makes a person more vulnerable to accident.
The researchers revealed that young and old pedestrians comprise with their road safety impaired when talking on hands-free cell phones.
During the study, where participants crossed a virtual street while talking on the phone or listening to music, researchers found that users of hands-free cell phones took longer to cross the street and were more likely to get run over.
Older cell-phone users, especially those unsteady on their feet to begin with, were even more likely to become traffic casualties.
"Many people assume that walking is so automatic that really nothing will get in the way," said University of Illinois psychology professor Art Kramer, who led the research with psychology professor Jason McCarley and postdoctoral researcher Mark Neider.
"And walking is pretty automatic, but actually walking in environments that have lots of obstacles is perhaps not as automatic as one might think," Neider added.
The study also showed that college-age adults who were talking on a cell phone took 25 percent longer to cross the street than their peers who were not on the phone.
They were also more likely to fail to cross the street in the 30 seconds allotted for the task, even though their peers were able to do so.
In the second study, researchers gave adults age 60 and above the same tasks, and included some participants who had a history of falling.
The differences between those on and off the phone were even more striking in the older group.
"Older adults on the phone got run over about 15 percent more often" than those not on the phone, he said, and those with a history of falling fared even worse," said Kramer.
"So walking and talking on the phone while old, especially, appears to be dangerous," he added.
The study appears in journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.