The Ques­tion

Can we stop the smart­phone zom­bie in­va­sion?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW -

Don’t leave your house – they’re out there. The coun­try is crawl­ing with smart­phone zom­bies. They shuf­fle along our streets, star­ing into their smart­phones, their slack­jawed faces glow­ing an eerie green from their screens. They seem obliv­i­ous to their sur­round­ings, lost in a twi­light world of YouTube, Twit­ter and Snapchat. They bump into lamp­posts and park­ing me­ters, and step blithely into the path of on­com­ing cars, buses, trams and bi­cy­cles. They are a men­ace to so­ci­ety – and to them­selves.

In the US, al­most 6,000 pedes­tri­ans were killed in 2016, an in­crease of 9 per cent on the pre­vi­ous year, and au­thor­i­ties are blam­ing smart­phone use for the rise in fa­tal­i­ties.

One Fianna Fáil TD has de­cided to tackle the scourge of “dis­tracted walk­ing”. John La­hart, the party’s Dublin spokesman, has is­sued a state­ment high­light­ing the dangers of tex­ting, tweet­ing and watch­ing videos when you should be watch­ing where you’re go­ing. “Safety mea­sures must be in­tro­duced to pre­vent in­jury and/or col­li­sion,” he said.

He’s not alone in the world. The Hawai­ian city of Honolulu has re­cently in­tro­duced a law al­low­ing the city’s Five-O (the cops, Dano) to fine pedes­tri­ans up to $35 for walk­ing with their eyes on their smart­phones in­stead of on the path ahead of them.

Hong Kong and On­tario, Canada, are con­sid­er­ing laws to curb smart­phone use while walk­ing, while in the city of Salzburg in Aus­tria, airbags have been wrapped around lamp­posts to soften the idiot im­pact. Towns in Ger­many and the Netherlands have em­bed­ded LED strips at busy in­ter­sec­tions, so peo­ple can see whether the cross­ing light is green or red with­out hav­ing to look up from their smart­phones.

Most coun­tries have laws ban­ning driv­ers from us­ing smart­phones; per­haps we need to leg­is­late for pedes­trian phone use, and not just leave it up to Dar­win’s law.

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