Interview: Australian road safety expert calls for crackdown on "smartphone zombies"

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-13 13:52:20|Editor: mingmei
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SYDNEY, June 13 (Xinhua) -- If you want to cross the road, "look up and get off your phone!" That's the message being told by Australia's National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA), who are calling for a crackdown on "smartphone zombies."

New research by the organization, which examined the behavior of 26,390 pedestrians at three busy intersections across Sydney, has uncovered an alarming trend when it comes to modern foot traffic.

"What we found through our observational studies is that more than one third of people that we observed were distracted, and what we mean by that is people who are using their phones, looking down while reading a text message, talking on the phone or listening to music while they were crossing the road," NRMA road safety expert Dimitra Vlahomitros told Xinhua on Thursday.

With "distracted walking" being a new global phenomenon, the NRMA's Look Up Report highlights the need for "more education" amongst the public.

"There are types of road users that are more likely to be at risk of being involved in a crash as a pedestrian and these groups are the elderly, young children and people that are intoxicated," Vlahomitros explained.

"But what we're seeing now is the emerging issue of distracted walking. That's why we conducted our study to learn a bit more about it because there's not a lot of research out there."

"However, we do know that 17 percent of all road trauma is related to pedestrian safety and last year in Australia we tragically lost 67 lives from people just simply crossing the street."

Among the highest concentration of smartphone users in the world, Australia's obsession with mobile screens is now bleeding into all aspects of daily life, according to Vlahomitros.

"People use their mobile phones all day. When people wake up the first thing they do is grab their phone, so it's only natural that you will find some users engaged with it when they're walking because it's just part of everyday life," she said.

"People prioritize phone calls or messages or looking at the social media feeds, as opposed to their secondary task."

"We all walk as part of our everyday lives so people don't think of it as dangerous, to be able to multitask and use their phone as they walk. But what makes it dangerous is that people are so enthralled in a mobile phone, that if they cross the road, they're not going to know if there's a red man signal or a car coming around the corner too quickly."

Urging authorities to do more to address the problem of "smartphone zombies," Vlahomitros said, "it's a global issue and we find that different jurisdictions are tackling this problem differently."

"In China, they introduced something called pedestrian lanes where they painted lanes on the footpath that are dedicated walkways to walk safely and text. In Honolulu (Hawaii) they've introduced a distracted walking fine."

"Here in Australia we want more education, better infrastructure so the environment is safe, but mostly we just want common sense, we want people to look up from their devices," she added.