AMK drive aims to alert smartphone zombies

Despite stickers and small billboards reminding pedestrians not to be distracted while crossing the road near Ang Mo Kio MRT station, many were seen glued to their devices yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Despite stickers and small billboards reminding pedestrians not to be distracted while crossing the road near Ang Mo Kio MRT station, many were seen glued to their devices yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Stickers remind pedestrians to look up from devices when crossing road near MRT station

It was 7.30am and commuters were rushing across the busy junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and 8 yesterday.

However, about one in every eight pedestrians was looking at his mobile phone.

On the edge of the pavement, barely a few feet away from passing cars, others stood transfixed by their devices as they waited to cross.

Now, the authorities hope something else will catch their eye and remind them to be aware of road safety. Since Wednesday, large yellow stickers that say "LOOK UP" with a crossed-out mobile phone have been strategically pasted on the edges of pedestrian crossings at the junction's two intersections and at the entrance to Ang Mo Kio MRT station.

Next to the traffic lights at the junction are small billboards reminding pedestrians not to be distracted while crossing the road.

The pilot initiative is by Ang Mo Kio GRC, together with the Land Transport Authority, Traffic Police, Singapore Road Safety Council and Singapore Kindness Movement.

Mr Ang Hin Kee, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said five members of the public told him they witnessed near misses involving pedestrians looking at their phones while crossing the road in the past four months.

"Sometimes you need to prompt people to be aware of their surroundings. We may assume that cars stop because the traffic light is red, but what if there is an accident?

"Something may come towards you and you may not even be aware of it," said Mr Ang.

Security officer Siti Izam, 32, who lives in Ang Mo Kio, said the new stickers are a good reminder to be alert. But pedestrians were seen glued to their devices while standing next to the stickers yesterday.

Ms Candy Chew, who crosses the junction every day as part of her morning walk, said: "Even if you paste this sticker, people may not bother.

"The individuals must know what it means to be safe, rather than have people telling them what to do."

 
 
 
 

The 53-year-old has to remind her niece and nephew to stop using their phones while walking on the road at times, and that "their phones are not their life".

A similar initiative involving embedded LED strips in the pavement of two pedestrian crossings at the junction of Buyong Road and Orchard Road, and the Victoria Street crossing outside Bugis Junction, was tested for six months in 2017.

It was extended following good feedback from pedestrians.

The Traffic Police does not have statistics on the number of accidents involving pedestrians using mobile phones.

In April, a woman was hit by a taxi while using her phone and crossing the road in the Bendemeer area.

Mr Ang hopes the stickers will prompt not only phone users, but also those using headphones, to be more aware of their surroundings.

"There are many who listen to music while crossing roads, and their attention is drawn somewhere else," he said.

In the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, 535 people wearing headphones on tracks have been hit and killed by trains since 2010, the police said on Thursday.

Ms Chew added: "You only live once. At the end of the day, you must be healthy and safe."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'AMK drive aims to alert smartphone zombies'. Print Edition | Subscribe