Dutch City Installs Pavement Traffic Lights to Help 'Phone Zombies'

A recent report has seen promising results.

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We all know that driving and texting is incredibly dangerous, but walking and texting is too. According to the American non-profit National Safety Council, distracted walking incidents are on the rise — increasing by 9 percent in the U.S. between 2015 and 2016 — largely due to most of us walking around while staring at our phones.

Instead of attempting to curb our smartphone addictions, a town in the Netherlands has updated its traffic tech to try and keep its residents from becoming fatalities — even if they refuse to look up. Bodegraven’s “Light Line”, an LED-illuminated strip embedded in the ground on each side of a crosswalk, was installed in February at a busy cross street. According to a observational study released earlier this month by RoyalHaskoningDHV, the company who created the project, the trial technology is meriting positive results.

According to the report, originally the Light Line would flash red and green, synchronizing with regular old traffic lights that still force you to look up. However, adjustments were later made to accommodate color blind individuals — who can’t differentiate between green and red — and the Light Line now flashes a straight up red to warn against crossing the street.

The green guide to safety; now adjusted to be a simple red warning line moving forward.

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The observational study was limited to one day in September, and RoyalHaskoningDHV reported that they actually observed citizens using the crosswalk and its traffic lights properly — as opposed to texters blindly walking into traffic, which is nice to hear. Even pedestrians using their phones would stop, look up at the traffic lights, and then continuing to walk. However, the study noted that pedestrians did tend to use the Light Line as a stopping point from the road. “What did become clear from the observation is that the Light Line can potentially ensure that pedestrians wait at a safe distance from the road,” the study says.

Although the line did not seem to become the de-facto guide for pedestrians as to whether or not to cross the road, it did serve a function, and as the study only covered one day of observations, RoyalHaskoningDHV and the city of Bodegravin believe more review is needed.

In an official press release Wednesday, the town of Bodegravin praised the multi-pronged possibilities of the Light Line:

The Light Line also has sufficient potential for other applications. In addition to ‘smombies’, smartphone zombies, the illuminated LED light line can help other road users cross the road, such as elderly people with walkers, children and large groups or pedestrians. Furthermore, waiting pedestrians are more visible because of the Light Line and pedestrians are not too close to the road.

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