Sidewalk Traffic Lights to Aid Smartphone-obsessed Pedestrians

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April 27, 2016

Things are looking up for people who spend a lot of time looking down.

The German city of Augsburg has installed traffic lights on the ground, so the lights are more visible to pedestrians who might be paying so much attention to their smartphones that they don’t look up to see existing traffic lights.

Augsburg city officials said that they were prompted to act after the death of a 15-year-old girl who was so distracted by looking at her smartphone that she didn’t look before she crossed the street and was killed by a tram. Other cities in other countries have reported similarly tragic stories.

In addition, a survey conducted recently by surveying people in multiple European cities found that nearly 20 percent of pedestrians were so absorbed in looking at their smartphones that they were oblivious to their surroundings. Another study, done in the United States, found an even higher number: 33 percent.

In a similar vein, a Chinese city, Chongqing in 2014 introduced a pedestrian lane that was designed for “smombies,” or smartphone zombies, so that they would not be potential hazards to non-smartphone-toting pedestrians.

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David White