Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Podestrian & Smart Phone Oblivion

A 21st century term for a 21st century phenomena – technological cocooning where people are so intent on their iPod or smart phone that they become unaware of what’s going on around them and so endanger their own, and other people’s lives. And the language doesn’t stop there. The AA first raised the issue of iPod Zombies in 2009 and in Germany they refer to Smombies (or Smart Phone Zombies) and elsewhere we have the walking wi-fi dead.

While using a mobile phone whilst driving is well understood to be dangerous and well publicised (not that anyone takes any notice), the message does not seem to be directed at other modes of transport like walking or cycling which can be just as dangerous.

According to an AA/Populus poll of 24,070 members, almost three quarters (72%) of drivers often see pedestrians step into the road whilst distracted by their phone with a similar number using headphones. Pedestrian phone distraction is most likely in London (80%) but other regions are not that far behind.

Abroad, special ‘text walking lanes’ have been introduced in Antwerp, Belgium and in San Francisco some parks have been designated phone-free areas. A US study quoted in the BMJ, showed a three-fold increase in the number of deaths involving pedestrians wearing headphones.

Here in the UK pedestrians accounted for three quarters of the increase in fatalities in Great Britain between 2013 and 2014. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 12 per cent from 398 in 2013 to 446 in 2014, according to Government figures.

AA patrols have also reported an increase in the number of 'zombie pedestrians' and joggers oblivious to traffic around them as they cross busy roads. It is thought that pedestrians’ lack of attention may be a factor in some of the 446 pedestrian deaths in 2014. Previous analysis from AA Insurance shows that pedestrian 'inattention' could be the cause of 17 collisions each day.

More than half of AA Insurance claims involving a pedestrian include causes such as:
  • Person on phone stepped out, wasn’t looking
  • Pedestrian just walked out
  • She looked the wrong way
  • He walked into the side of the car
Use of such technology on the move can lead to 'unintentional blindness' or 'divided attention' which poses great risks for road safety. The AA is particularly concerned at reports from patrols of people broken down on the hard-shoulder of motorways, pacing backwards and forwards whilst using mobile phones. This is incredibly dangerous with juggernauts passing just a few feet away.

Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: “We can’t stop the march of technology but we need to halt the pedestrian, cycle and driver zombies. Whether on two feet, two wheels or four, too many people are suffering from Smartphone Oblivion.

“When on the move our brains have much to take in and using technological gadgets means that we can’t always concentrate on so many things at once.

“This is when we walk into traffic; don’t hear the truck or drive cocooned from the outside world.

” Our research suggests this problem is growing so we all need to use common sense to ensure that technological cocooning doesn’t endanger our lives or the lives of others.”

The AA advises drivers not to wear headphones at the wheel and to be extra alert and slowdown in areas frequented by pedestrians and cyclists. The AA also advises those that use headphones or earphones on the streets to ensure that the volume does not override their other senses.


  1. Are there figures available re Podrivers? Or Podyclists?

  2. Er...what other senses?