German City Installs Sidewalk Traffic Lights To Keep Pedestrians Who Text And Walk Safe

Texting has become ubiquitous around the world and people are becoming more and more engaged with their devices, while ignoring the world around them.

This can have sometimes lighthearted and mildly annoying consequences as a woman discovered in 2011, when she walked headfirst into a fountain in a Texas shopping mall while texting on her mobile device.

This level of disconnect can also result in people walking headfirst into dangerous situations while being completely unaware. In February 2015, a California man, focused on his device, walked straight into an encounter with a wild bear. Luckily for that man, he noticed the danger before it was too late and was able to escape.

In November 2015, a new German youth word was selected to define this very concept. "Smombies" describes people so fixated on their mobile device that they navigate the world like extras in The Walking Dead series.

Many people around the world, however, are not as lucky. Just over one year following the bear encounter, a young German teen was texting and listening to music on her mobile phone while walking and was struck and killed by a train attempting to cross a railway track, German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

According to the recent study conducted throughout major cities in Europe, almost 20 percent of pedestrians are distracted by mobile devices while walking. It was clear to German city officials that something should be done to try and counter the phenomenon. To that end, they funded the installation of traffic lights on the ground to alert distracted pedestrians of potentially dangerous crossings.

"It creates a whole new level of attention," city spokeswoman Stephanie Lermen said (via Washington Post). The new lights were installed in Augsburg following the death of a 15-year-old teenager. City officials hope that with these new lights, lives can be saved and further accidents avoided.

It remains to be seen what impact the new pedestrian lights will have on the "smombie" problem. Some critics say the lights are a complete waste of taxpayer money. A young German pedestrian, who was interviewed by the German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine regarding the new lights, remarked that he was too distracted to even notice the new lights.

Aside from Germany, other countries have also installed similar measures to protect their growing smartphone addicts on the streets. Special texting lanes have been installed in Antwerp, Belgium, Chongqing, China, and Stockholm, Sweden to separate normal pedestrians from those with cell phones. Pedestrians in the city of Rexburg, Idaho will have to pay a hefty $101.50 fine if caught texting on crosswalks. New Jersey lawmakers are introducing an even stricter bill. They seek to penalize texting pedestrians with a $50 fine, up to 15 days of jail time, or both, Tech Times reported.

By Jim Gezen for techtimes.com