Today it is common to see pedestrians glued to the screens of their mobile phones while walking. Driving a vehicle and using the smartphone is sanctioned in most countries, but this is not the case when it comes to pedestrians, despite the fact that it can lead to stumbling, collisions with other pedestrians or urban furniture, or even to being run over. A Japanese city has taken the first step to ban it.
This is Yamato, a town located in the Kanagawa pre-invoice, where a bill has been introduced to prohibit the use of mobile phones on foot. The proposal was put on the table this week at the city’s municipal council: later this month it will be decided whether or not to approve it. If so, from July, it would take effect.
However, the fact that something is prohibited does not necessarily imply that a violation of that prohibition is sanctioned. In fact, the future regulation does not foresee sanctions for pedestrians who cannot leave their cell phones when they are walking, but an information campaign will be implemented through posters and messages on public roads and other platforms, as the objective of the regulation is raise awareness.
“We hope that the ban will raise awareness of the danger it poses,” explains Masaaki Yasumi, according to Agence France-Presse, one of the representatives of the city’s local administration.
It is not the first city to take measures to combat the use of mobile phones in pedestrians: in Honolulu (Hawaii), crossing the street looking at the smartphone, or any electronic device, has been sanctioned since 2017 with a fine of between $15 and $35.
Also, in Islan (South Korea), they have chosen to use technology to prevent collisions among ‘zombie’ pedestrians by installing smart pedestrian crossings equipped with lights and laser beams, which even send an alert to mobile phones indicating whether it is safe to cross or not.
The road safety problem of using mobile phones on foot has been studied for a long time in Japan. In 2014, Japan’s leading telephone operator, NTT Docomo, performed a simulation on Tokyo’s gigantic Shibuya promenade, one of the world’s busiest.
In it, it was concluded that if 1,500 pedestrians crossed it glued to their mobile phone, there would be 446 crashes and 103 falls : only a third of the pedestrians would manage to reach the other sidewalk without suffering a mishap. And, according to the NTT Docomo study, the field of vision of a person focused on the screen of their mobile phone is reduced to no less than 5% compared to normal vision.
“If people continue to walk the streets with their eyes fixed on their phone, the number of accidents will increase,” said Tetsuya Yamamoto, a senior fire department official dedicated to risk prevention.
According to Yamamoto, using a mobile phone is not only a danger in the case of motorists, but also in the case of pedestrians. In fact, it stated that 41% of accidents related to the use of mobile phones corresponded to pedestrians and cyclists.
And there is more data: according to the Tokyo emergency workers, between 2009 and 2013, ambulances treated 122 injured from accidents caused by pedestrians absorbed by the screen of their smartphones.
The distraction of using the mobile phone while walking has also been put on the table in Spain. According to the ‘ VI Distraction Report ‘ prepared by RACE, in collaboration with BP and Castrol, and published this 2020, accidents resulting from distractions have increased markedly in recent years.
This analysis collects, according to DGT data dating from 2017, that 33% of fatal accidents were caused by distractions, ahead of speeding (29%) and driving alcohol (26%). Similarly, the abuses have grown 28% in the last ten years.
In addition, based on data from a survey of 2,132 Spaniards between the ages of 18 and 65, 55% of those surveyed stated that they regularly use the WhatsApp application while walking, either to write or read messages. In addition, 31% declared using the social networks on foot and 63% did the same with respect to calls.
But the most worrying fact is that 89% of those surveyed have stated that they see other pedestrians crossing the street looking at their mobile phones, of which 58% maintain that very regularly. And all this taking into account that 90% of the sample affirms that using the mobile phone while walking involves a lot or quite a risk. Similarly, the RACE report postulates that 98% of pedestrians claim to have had an accident or mishap for using the mobile phone.