April 26, 2016

German town catering to phone addicts with traffic signals in the pavement

Washington Post - officials in the city of Augsburg [Germany] became concerned when they noticed a new phenomenon: Pedestrians were so busy looking at their smartphones that they were ignoring traffic lights.

The city has attempted to solve that problem by installing new traffic lights embedded in the pavement — so that pedestrians constantly looking down at their phones won't miss them.

"It creates a whole new level of attention," city spokeswoman Stephanie Lermen was quoted as saying. Lermen thinks the money is wisely spent: A recent survey conducted in several European cities, including Berlin, found that almost 20 percent of pedestrians were distracted by their smartphones. Younger people are most likely to risk their safety for a quick look at their Facebook profiles or WhatsApp messages, the survey found.

That problem may be even more widespread in the United States: A survey by the University of Washington found that 1 in 3 Americans is busy texting or working on a smartphone at dangerous road crossings. The Department of Transportation has established a clear connection between such habits and an increase in pedestrian deaths.

According to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, not everyone thinks the new lights are a good idea. Some commentators have complained that the project was a waste of taxpayers' money.

In 2014, the Chinese city of Chongqing made headlines when it experimented with a 165-foot stretch of pavement where pedestrians had to choose between walking on a normal lane and one reserved for smombies -- a portmanteau of "smartphone" and "zombies" used to describe people walking and staring at their devices.

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