Smartphones Raise Accident Risk for Pedestrians

      March 01, 2016 07:59

      An increasing number of pedestrians fall victim to dangerous accidents because they are distracted by their smartphones. Their number nearly doubled over five years from 437 in 2009 to 1,111 in 2014, according to Hyundai Marine and Fire Insurance.

      At 8 a.m. one morning last week, more than a half of the 40 pedestrians at a crossing near Gangnam Subway Station in Seoul looked at their smartphones as they waited for the traffic signal to change .

      In subzero temperatures, some were texting while blowing on their cold hands, while others were watching videos or playing games.

      People look at their smartphones near a crosswalk in front of Yonsei University in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2016.

      Experts say the recognition distance of approaching vehicles for pedestrians using smartphones is about half that for those not using them.

      Pedestrians can usually hear the sound of approaching cars when they are 11.9 m away, but people who are texting only notice them when they are 7.7 m away, according to the Samsung Traffic Safety Research Institute. Pedestrians listening to music on their earphones can hear the sound of approaching cars only when they are a mere 4.7 m away.

      Prof. Shin Hyun-jin of Konkuk University said, "People normally have a field of vision of 100 to 120 degrees, but that narrows to just 20 degrees when using a smartphone."

      Despite such risks, four out of every 10 pedestrians cross the streets using smartphones, according to a survey by Hyundai Marine in 2013.

      A signpost on a street in Sweden warns of using smartphones while walking.

      Many countries have come up with preventive measures. Japanese telecom NTT DoCoMo released a handset with a function that warns users who are walking while using the phone and turns it off.

      New Jersey fines pedestrians US$85 for sending texting while crossing the street, and in Chongqing, China and and Antwerp in Belgium there are lanes exclusively for smartphone users.

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