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In-ground traffic lights for smombies

There’s a new word for people using smart phones without looking up to see where they’re going – smombies.

The Germans coined the word to combine “smart phone” and “zombie”. One enterprising German city in Bavaria has introduced in-ground traffic lights so texters don’t even have to look up.

In-ground traffic lights

Following the death of a 15-year-old who didn’t see a tram coming because she was busy with her mobile and wearing headphones, Augsburg has installed in-ground traffic lights along the kerb at two crossings used frequently by university students.

These LED lights flash when the lights turn red, or when a vehicle is approaching. If the experiment is successful, the lights could be installed across the city at other risky intersections.

Texting while walking is a problem all over the world.

Walking lanes

In China, one town has introduced special walking lanes for people who are heavy users of devices while walking along. Dedicated paths are marked with a large picture of a mobile phone. Ironically, many smartphone users don’t even see these markings. The city of Antwerp in Belgium and a university in Thailand have introduced similar texting-only lanes.

In America, no states have yet passed a law against distracted walking but New Jersey is attempting to make illegal texting while walking. University of Washington says one in three Americans is preoccupied with a smartphone at risky road crossings.

Texting while walking is not just dangerous, but annoying. Research by British retailer, Argos, found shoppers are irritated by “slow pace of high streets”, “pavement hoggers” and “dawdling pedestrians”. So the retailer has trialled a fast lane in its Liverpool store.

Two solutions

The problem of texting while walking currently seems to have two solutions: ban it altogether or provide a way that people can do it safely. What is the best way for Australians?

Pavement “traffic” lights are going to trial in Sydney from December 2016 for 6 months to try and prevent accidents with “petextrians”, people texting while walking. See our blog on wonky walkers for more.

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