While zombies thankfully still remain a figment of our imagination, ‘smombies’ – people walking while staring at their smartphones – are very real and a growing cause for concern. Fed up of having to constantly alert both locals an tourists to pay more attention to their surroundings to avoid serious accidents, authorities in a small German town have come up with a more proactive solution – embedding traffic lights in the pavement to make them visible to people constantly looking down at their phones.
The seemingly ridiculous safety measure was put in place after two pedestrians in the town of Augsburg were recently hit by quiet electric street trains as they crossed the street without looking up from their phones. They both escaped with only slight injuries, but a 15-year-old girl engrossed in her smartphone on a street in nearby Munich wasn’t so lucky. She was hit by a tram and dragged along for several feet before she died. So authorities in Augsburg decided to act, installing ground level traffic lights at two tram stops last Tuesday. The lights flash red every time a tram is approaching, or when the regular traffic light turns red.
Photo: Thomas Hosemann / Stadtwerke Augsburg
“We realised that the normal traffic light isn’t in the line of sight of many pedestrians these days,” said Tobias Hermes, a city administration official. “So we decided to have an additional set of lights – the more we have, the more people are likely to notice them.”
Some Augsburg residents appear to be quite happy with the initiative. “I think it makes sense,” one local said, speaking to The Augsburger Allgemeine. “One always sees young people these days running over red lights. This makes it more obvious that you need to stop.”
Photo: YouTube caption
Others however found the need for ground traffic lights disturbing and even frightening. “I find it scary that smartphone users are so addicted that they need to install lights in the ground so that they notice the tram coming,” one person told the local paper.
But do this kind of pavement-embedded lights actually work? Well, if one interviewed teenager is to be believed, not really. “To be honest I didn’t even notice it,” he told The Augsburger Allgemeine. “Maybe it’d be useful at night, but yeah, I didn’t realize it was there until just now.” And he wan’t even looking at his smartphone.
The word ‘smombie’ – a mashup of the words smartphone and zombie – was born in Germany. It was voted ‘youth word of the year’ in 2015, but the serious consequences of this behavior are no laughing matter.
via The Local