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Beware the march of the 'Smombies'

AA raised concerns about smartphone zombie pedestrians

Patrick McDonnell
13 April 2016

Nearly three-quarters of drivers say they often see pedestrians and joggers step into the road whilst distracted by their mobile phones.

A Populus poll of 24,070 of AA members revealed that 72% had seen ‘smarphone zombies’, or ‘Smombies’ who appear 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.

The use of mobile technology can lead to ‘unintentional blindness’ or ‘divided attention’ which poses great risks for road safety, says the AA.

Pedestrian phone distraction is most likely to occur in London (80%) and least likely in Eastern England (67%), South West (68%) and Wales (69%), the AA-Populous poll revealed.

Pedestrians accounted for three quarters of the increase in fatalities in Great Britain between 2013 and 2014. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 12% from 398 in 2013 to 446 in 2014, according to Department for Transport’s: Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: Main Results 2014.

The AA is particularly concerned at reports from its own patrols of people broken down on the hard-shoulder of motorways who are found pacing backwards and forwards whilst using mobile phones.

Edmund King, 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.”

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