Back in April, it was reported that the German city of Augsburg had come up with an innovative solution to the problem of people wandering into the middle of busy roads while glued to their smartphones: sidewalk traffic lights.
It now seems that other nations think the lights are worth the investment, as Australia is looking to trial them on the streets of Sydney.
Like the German version, they will work in the same way as regular pedestrian lights by indicating when it’s safe to cross a road. Being embedded in the sidewalk means smartphone addicts don’t need to raise their heads from whatever Facebook/Instagram/YouTube content they’re looking at.
The New South Wales state government will begin the A$250,000 (US$181,488) six-month trial in December. The lights will appear in five sites, with more likely to appear in other locations should the experiment prove successful.
"Pedestrians are less protected in a road crash, and are therefore more likely to be seriously injured or killed,” Centre for Road Safety Executive Director Bernard Carlon told Mashable. "This is why we need to create a road system that keeps them safe, and this includes situations when they may not be paying attention."
The initiative is part of the Towards Zero campaign that aims to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic accidents. 67 people were killed on NSW roads over the last 12 months, an increase from the 44 pedestrian deaths during the same period a year earlier.
"The lights are aimed at pedestrians using mobile phones who are not looking where they are walking," Carlon added. "They will serve as another layer of warning on top of existing lights and signals."
It’s likely that not all residents will think the lights are a good idea. Several people complained that the ones in Augsburg were a waste of money, and looking up from a mobile device once in a while isn’t asking too much. But NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, disagrees. “If these lights could save just one life — I’ll do it,” he said.
With more countries turning to the lights as a way of reducing road deaths, there’s every possibility that they’ll start appearing in more regions, including the US.