Smartphones have had a profound impact on our society over the past decade. They have transformed the way we communicate and the way we live our daily lives. But lately, with the evolution of cellular connections, processing power and potential to do cool things, smartphones have been putting people in danger during all types of situations. These scenarios can range from anything like driving your car to crossing the road. Dutch engineers, however, have come up with quite a clever solution for the latter.
It’s not a hard situation to imagine. Lots of people tend to be absorbed in their cell phones while walking down the sidewalk. It may happen that one oblivious pedestrian walks right into oncoming traffic due to his attention to social media or games. In fact, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in the USA in 2015, 19 percent of which occurred at places where pedestrians are meant to be, including crosswalks and sidewalks. How are groups taking initiative to solve this problem? Keep reading to find out.
Officials in Bodegraven-Reeuwijk, a town in the Netherlands about 25 miles south of Amsterdam, are beta testing a system they believe might solve the problem of so-called “smartphone zombies”. A handful of devices called Light Lines (or Lichtijn in Dutch) has been installed in a few intersections around the town.
Light Lines are basically strips of LEDs installed in the pavement that change color according to the status of the traffic light. They shine a solid red when pedestrians shouldn’t be crossing and green when pedestrians are able to cross. The idea is that since “Smartphone zombies” will be looking down on their smartphones anyway, they will notice the line and stop before wandering into oncoming traffic. “The lure of social media, games, WhatsApp and music is great, and it comes at the expense of paying attention to traffic,” town alderman Kees Oskam said in a statement. “As a government, we probably can’t reverse this trend, but we can anticipate problems.”
Up to this point, I’ve mentioned only positive feedback to this idea. To be clear, I really do like it. I think that Dutch officials are trying to be forward-thinking and realistic in order to prepare for the future. However, not everyone shares my opinion. A spokesman from Veilig Verkeer Nederland (VVN), a group that advocates for road safety in the Netherlands, expressed his concern with this project. His premise of argument was that the Light Lines are rewarding bad behavior and justify the usage of cellphones while walking. Nevertheless, schools in the area are open the idea and excited to see what effect the system will have on pedestrian safety.