Feb 22, 2023
Distracted walking is a term that has become part of the everyday lexicon due to the number of pedestrians who are injured in accidents (or near accidents) every year. Also known as “twalking” (for texting while walking), distracted walking can cause serious injuries – whether someone is at an intersection, walking down a flight of stairs, or even strolling along an uneven sidewalk.
Distracted walking has become such an issue in South Korea that officials recently installed traffic lights on the streets for people who are “obsessed with their cell phones,” according to a report from the India Times.
Due to the potential for pedestrians who are glued to their screens to miss a red light or even wander into oncoming traffic unknowingly, South Korea has placed traffic lights on the ground while also providing traditional signals on poles.
The new feature on South Korea’s streets has garnered attention on TikTok.
“TikTok footage emerged on October 11 of an intersection in Seoul that shows curbs lit up with green and red lights, indicating when it’s safe to cross the road even if you’re looking down at your phone screen,” a Daily Mail report indicated.
The video reportedly shows a group of people in South Korea’s capital city – Seoul – crossing a busy road “without even looking up from their hands,” according to the Daily Mail.
Coined “smombies’” or “smartphone-obsessed zombies,” South Korean officials have taken these various proactive steps in an effort to protect the large number of distracted pedestrians. Through use of the in-ground LED traffic signal lights, South Korean officials hope to ensure greater pedestrian safety.
In fact, the issue of distracted walking is so prevalent that the nation has taken additional steps beyond the in-ground traffic lights to help prevent accidents involving pedestrians who are glued to their phones and screens.
“In March 2019, the South Korean government also implemented an alert system which sends a notification to phones if walkers are about to step into traffic,” the Daily Mail reported.
According to Kim Jong-hoon, senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology, the number of smartphone addicts involved in pedestrian accidents has been steadily increasing over the years.
“Increasing number of smombie accidents have occurred in pedestrian crossings, so these zombie lights are essential to prevent these pedestrian accidents,” Jong-hoon said, according to the Daily Mail.
South Korean officials have expressed concern over the ongoing issue of pedestrian accidents involving individuals who are distracted by screens. In terms of numbers, the following statistics were confirmed by the Daily Mail:
Although distracted walking is certainly an issue here in the Golden State, recent legislation makes it easier for pedestrians to jaywalk without the fear of incurring costly fines.
Under a new California law – Assembly Bill 2147 (AB 2147) – pedestrians are essentially able to legally cross a street outside of a designated intersection without having to worry about receiving a jaywalking citation from law enforcement.
Citations for jaywalking will no longer be issued “unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
To read more about California’s Freedom to Walk Act, please visit our recent blog.
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