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Seoul’s new traffic signs warn of the dangers of texting while walking

TechCrunch TechCrunch 25/06/2016 Lucia Maffei

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced traffic and pedestrian signs alerting the danger of using smartphones while walking on the street, soon to be installed in five areas of the South Korean capital.

The safety campaign, implemented together with the National Police Agency, specifically targets kids, teenagers and young adults, the main users of smartphones in the country.

“The five areas where the pilot project will be implemented are Hongdae, City Hall, Yonsei University, Gangnam Station, and Jamsil Station, where there are many accidents and pedestrians in their 10-30s,” the Seoul Metropolitan Government website states.

Here is what those signs will look like:

With a population of 50.8 million, South Korea has the highest smartphone ownership rate worldwide, according to statistics published by Pew Research Center in 2016. The fact that the country is also one of the most active smartphone manufacturers in the world is not a coincidence – it’s the headquarters of LG Electronics, not to mention Samsung Electronics in Suwon, south of the capital.

“I saw many people using smartphones while walking and commuting, but I don’t think it’s just Korea,” said Jenny Lee, who had been living in Seoul for the past five years before enrolling in a university in Illinois. “People in the U.S. are also similar,” she added.

The phenomenon of walking and texting, sadly, is probably nothing new to anyone who regularly uses public transportation. To prevent accidents, other cities in Asia, in Europe and in the U.S. launched similar initiatives.

In 2013, mobile phone carrier NTT Docomo plastered a yellow warning all over a staircase in Tokyo, reading “Walking while using a smartphone is dangerous.”

German city Augsburg experimented with traffic lights embedded in the sidewalks, designed to be easily detected by people looking down at their smartphones.

Utah Valley University, south of Salt Lake City, introduced a designated lane for texting while walking in its gym.

Back in South Korea, the administration said it hopes “the message is made simple and clear, so that the pedestrians who are mostly looking down at their smartphones can easily see it.”

Let’s hope.

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