We’re living in a world where no one looks up from their phones.
Admit it. At some point or another, you’ve been walking around with your eyes glued to your smartphone, and looked up just in time to avoid colliding with another person or walking out into the street before the green man lit up.
Consider yourself lucky because the outcome doesn’t always turn out so well for others, and that’s exactly why a city in Germany has decided to install traffic lights in the pavement.
To accommodate what Germans refer to as “smombies” (smartphone zombies), the city of Augsburg has embedded rows of red LED lights in the pavement next to two streetcar stops that serve a local university. If the sidewalk-traffic lights prove to be a success, officials plan to install them all over the rest of the city.
Yes, it sounds all too ridiculous, but there’s actually a tragic reason behind the decision to install the lights — a 15-year-old girl was killed in Augsburg after accidentally stepping in front of a streetcar while she was listening to music and looking at her smartphone, The Washington Post reports. Two other people were injured in the same area in similar situations.
Based on a recent study on the dangers of smartphone distraction among both pedestrians and drivers, the researchers report that about 17 percent of the 14,000 pedestrians in the survey used their smartphones while in road traffic.
"One incident in Stockholm made a particular impression,” said researcher Clemens Klinke in a press release. “A young girl stood in the middle of the road, got her cellphone out and started texting. It wasn't until a bus driver sounded his horn that she realized where she was standing and moved on.”
Apparently the problem is even worse in the United States. A 2012 study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that, based on a study of over 1,100 people, as many as one in three pedestrians are distracted by smartphones while crossing the road.
Smartphone use is also extremely dangerous while driving — which seems more obvious, but studies have shown that texting at the wheel actually impairs your driving skills more than driving drunk. And that’s not to minimize the danger of drunk driving, it just goes to show how much our cognitive abilities are weakened by concentrating on our smartphones.
Hopefully initiatives like installing traffic lights in sidewalks can help create a safer world for all smombies.
"When you are in among road traffic as a pedestrian, you should keep your undivided attention on the traffic in the interest of your own safety," Klinke advises in conclusion. "After all, as an unprotected road user, you face a much higher risk in the event of an accident. And distraction caused by smartphone use should never be underestimated."
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