SYDNEY (AFP) - Ground-level traffic lights for pedestrians constantly looking down at smartphones are set to be trialled in Sydney as Australian authorities seek to drive down the road death toll.
It comes amid alarm about rising road fatalities this year, with officials launching the "Towards Zero" advertising campaign this week to increase awareness about accident rates.
In addition, the New South Wales government is shelling out A$250,000 (S$249,000) to test "in-ground traffic-light technology" at key crossings in Sydney's central business district, the state's Roads Minister Duncan Gay said.
"Pedestrians are less protected in a road crash, and are therefore more likely to be seriously injured or killed," NSW Centre for Road Safety's executive director Bernard Carlon said in a statement sent to AFP Thursday.
"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 lights are aimed at pedestrians using mobile phones who are not looking where they are walking." Carlon said the trial is expected to start in December at five sites and last for six months.
Some 61 pedestrians died on NSW roads last year, a 49 percent jump from 2014, he said, adding that fatalities this year have so far increased by five from the same period in 2015, to 31.
Another Australian city, Gold Coast in Queensland state, is also looking at trialling the technology, which involves rows of lights at curbs that shine green and blink when it is safe to cross a road, Brisbane's Courier Mail reported.
It is reportedly already being tested in the German cities of Cologne and Augsburg.