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Seoul's latest method to stop you paying attention to your phone in the street

Seoul has announced its latest attempt to protect oblivious smartphone users in busy city streets: an old school approach that just might work.
By
June 27, 2016
Traffic

When your country has the highest smartphone owning population in the world, you have to take distracted smartphone users seriously. There have been all kinds of funny, weird and obvious attempts to protect oblivious smartphone users in public places from their own bad habits: from smartphone lanes to pedestrian traffic lights mounted in the ground and flat out banning smartphone use while crossing the street. But Seoul’s latest attempt is classic old school. So much so that it just might work.

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Seoul’s solution to the smartphone somnambulist syndrome is to erect traffic signs warning of the dangers of using a smartphone while near busy streets. That’s right, traffic signs, just like the ones you causally observe and (should) obey when driving.

Those high-impact red triangles and diagonally crossed circles are deeply embedded in our psyches. Even when we ignore a posted sign we at least know we’re doing the wrong thing. What’s most important is that we pay attention to what’s inside. Even if we choose not to obey, we at least register the contents of the sign, unlike the vast majority of other ads and signs outside.

Seoul Metropolitan Government Pedestrian Traffic Signs for Smartphone Users

Following this logic the Seoul Metropolitan Government and National Police Agency will be installing traffic and pedestrian signs at several busy intersections reminding pedestrians and motorists alike of the dangers of smartphone usage on the busy streets.

Despite some claims the scheme is a waste of money, Seoul, like many other cities trying similar things, has a list of traffic accidents caused or suffered by distracted smartphone users. The targeted areas already have a high incidence of accidents and a high density of 10-30 year olds.

The message is made simple and clear so that the pedestrians who are mostly looking down at their smart phones can easily see it.

As the Metropolitan Government notes, “The message is made simple and clear so that the pedestrians who are mostly looking down at their smart phones can easily see it.” Of course, the argument can also be made that the last thing smartphone addicts are doing in the street is looking at street signs warning them of potential danger.

However, putting traffic lights in the ground just encourages people to keep their eyes on the ground rather than left, right and in front of them where they belong. Whatever your view on the various attempts to protect oblivious pedestrians, the fact remains that as smartphone ownership increases we’re only going to see more accidents and deaths if something isn’t done about it.

Do you use your phone while crossing the street? Have you ever had an accident or close call?