A German city just did something genius to help people cross the street while looking at their phones


In Augsburg, Germany, walkers-and-texters are reportedly legion—so much so, in fact, that the city is taking some creative measures to ameliorate the issue. From the Washington Post‘s translation of German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung:

The city has attempted to solve that problem by installing new traffic lights embedded in the pavement — so that pedestrians constantly looking down at their phones won’t miss them.
“It creates a whole new level of attention,” city spokeswoman Stephanie Lermen was quoted as saying.

A press release by the utility company in charge of designing the lights (and translated by Atlas Obscura) explains how the lights work:

When the streetcar is approaching (or the pedestrian just doesn’t have the right of way), the lights rapidly blink red, hopefully catching the eye of anyone attempting to reply to their texts while crossing the street.

The city decided to install the lights after a 15-year old girl was killed by a tram; police, the Post reports, say the girl was “distracted by her smartphone.” How effective the lights actually are, though, is still up for debate: Atlas Obscura reports one teen telling The Augsburger Allgemaine that he “didn’t even notice” the lights on the ground.

Stateside, studies show that one in three Americans are engaging in a distracting activity on their smartphones at dangerous crossings.

The city’s project is reminiscent of the “texting” lane painted on the steps of Utah Valley University’s Student and Wellness Center.

At UVU, though, the lane is only intended as a joke.

“(Preventing collisions) isn’t the reason we did it—we did it to engage the students,” Matt Bambrough, the creative director at UVU, told Fusion in June. “It’s meant to be there for people to look at and enjoy.”

In Germany, it appears as if the concerns are a little more serious.

Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.

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