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Sydney trials pavement traffic lights

Pavement traffic lights

Mobile absorbed pedestrians are to have a new safety net in Sydney – traffic lights embedded in the pavement.

Traffic lights are to be embedded in pavements around Sydney in an attempt to save texting pedestrians from collisions. 

The city will spend AUS $250,000 (£127,000) on a six-month trial that will debut this December. 

”Last year, 61 pedestrians were killed on our roads, a 49% increase on the 2014 figure,” Bernard Carlon, executive director at the Centre for Road Safety at Transport for New South Wales, told New Civil Engineer. “So far this year there have been 40 pedestrian deaths, which is nine more than the same period in 2015. Every year we have more than 1,000 pedestrians seriously injured on our roads.”

“The lights are aimed at pedestrians using mobile phones who are not looking where they are walking,” he added. ”They will serve as another layer of warning on top of existing lights and signals to let pedestrians know when it is safe to cross the road.”

“The intention is for the in-ground lights to operate in parallel with existing traffic signals installed at a signalised crossing. When the pedestrian walk signal is green the in-ground lights will show no signal (“dark switching”). When the pedestrian phase ends and the pedestrians walk signal switches to red, the in-ground traffic light system will activate and also display red.

“Investigations are also being undertaken on how best to incorporate in-ground lights to traffic signals fitted with Pedestrian Countdown Timers.”

Australians are not the only people not looking where they are going.

German utilities and transport company SWA is trialling pavement warning lights in Augsburg to warn mobile-using pedestrians approaching a tram stop. 

And a 2015 study in Manhattan, New York, for William Paterson University in the US found that 25% of all pedestrians at key city intersections were using phones or headphones when the “Walk” sign was illuminated.

Half those venturing out on the “Don’t Walk” signal – against the traffic – were distracted.

“But most concerning was the number of near-misses – pedestrians pulling or pushing distracted walkers out of the way of oncoming vehicles – witnessed by the research team,” noted a report for US safety body the Governors Highway Safety Association. 

The link between pedestrian phone use and traffic accidents is far from firmly established. 

In the UK, the Department for Transport’s annual report for 2014 stated that pedestrian fatalities increased by 12% from 398 in 2013 to 446 in 2014.

However, 2013 represented a record low for pedestrian fatalities – and the DfT judged the increase as unlikely to be statistically significant. 

Failure to look properly remained the main established contributory factor in road accidents.

While information was collected on whether drivers were using a phone when an accident happened, there were no data on pedestrian phone use. 

A 2012 report for the Transport Research Laboratory which investigated pedestrian fatalities in London found that 25 out of 198 fatalities involved distractions ranging from talking to other pedestrians to yelling across the road.

Mobile phone use was present in four accidents, and wearing headphones in two. 



Readers' comments (2)

  • Do you mean £127k rather than £127M??

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  • Good spot! That's what comes from writing about megaprojects all the time. How could it possibly be less than a million? T.H.

  • I spotted phone-answering as a distraction in a relatively mild rail-safety environment nearly 20 years ago... anecdotally standing mid-track rather than crossing to cess (etc) prior to answer. I didn't even own one myself at the time. Today "everyone" is at it. Pedestrians, Drivers and Cyclists.

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