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Smartphone addicts put lives at risk

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Smartphone fixated, text-happy pedestrians could be putting themselves at risk, as many people continue to use their phones and mobile devices even while crossing busy roads. 

According to official data, more than 85,000 pedestrians lost their lives on European roads between 2003 and 2013, confirming that car crashes are the leading cause of death in 18 to 24-year-olds.

A new survey commissioned by Ford quizzed 10,000 people across Europe to highlight the issue of distracted pedestrians. Most smartphone users surveyed (57 per cent) admitted to using their devices when crossing the road, even when there is no formal crossing, and nearly half (47 per cent) talk on the phone. 

The results found that those aged 18-24 years old were most likely to have used mobile devices or phones (86 per cent), talked on the phone (68 per cent), listened to music (62 per cent), texted (34 per cent), and had an accident or near miss (22 per cent) while crossing the street.

Overall, 32 per cent of pedestrians admitted listening to music, 14 per cent text, nine per cent browse the internet, seven per cent use social media, and three per cent play games or watch TV/videos while crossing roads. Most admitted the behaviour was dangerous, and 60 per cent said they felt safer knowing that autonomous vehicles, or vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous technologies, could intervene to prevent or mitigate an accident if the driver did not respond to warnings. 

Ford is highlighting the risks posed by distracted pedestrians as part of Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL). Brought to Europe in 2013, the carmaker has now introduced DSFL training in the UK, working together with leading safety organisations to improve safety standards. The training also highlights the risks of drink driving and the use of social media while driving. 

Jim Graham, manager of Ford DSFL, said: “It’s one thing to walk along the pavement with headphones on listening to music, but stepping into a road while texting, playing a game or browsing online is extremely dangerous. Our training makes young people more aware of their surroundings both as a driver and a passenger, so hazards can be anticipated earlier.”

Official data obtained by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) – Britain’s biggest independent road safety charity – reveals that 23 per cent of vehicle accidents involving a pedestrian in 2013 occurred in circumstances where the pedestrian failed to look properly, was careless or reckless, or in a hurry.

Sarah Sillars, chief executive officer at IAM, said: “Pedestrian fatalities are rising faster than any other group right now so it is vital that drivers are more sympathetic and aware of pedestrians when they make their journeys.

“There is no need to blame any party when it comes to how to reduce the numbers of people killed and injured on our roads – all road users need to look out for each other and ensure we minimise the impact of our own and others’ unpredictable behaviour.”

DSFL takes place in the UK just ahead of National Road Safety week, at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre, from 20-22 November. 

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