Dutch town installs traffic lights on ground for pedestrians who can't take eyes off mobile devices

The Dutch town of Bodegraven has launched a pilot programme to put traffic lights on the ground for the benefit of pedestrians who are looking down at their smartphones as they walk. PHOTO: HIG TRAFFIC SYSTEMS

More pedestrians are looking down at their smartphone screens as they walk, instead of at the road ahead. This is dangerous as they could get run over by vehicles which they do not see approaching.

According to Quartz, the Dutch town of Bodegraven, is addressing this phenomenon with a pilot programme to put traffic lights on the ground.

LED light strips have been installed on the sidewalk, synchronising with traffic signals and turning red or green at pedestrian crossings.

It is near impossible for people to miss those signals even if their eyes are directed downwards.

The company that installed the lights is local firm HIG Traffic Systems, and it has so far implemented the system at one intersection.

If the trial is successful, it hopes to spread the concept to other towns and cities.

Local councillor Kees Oskam said pedestrians tend to forsake road safety for their social media, games or communication on their mobile devices.

"As a government, we probably cannot easily reverse this trend," he said, adding that the authorities wanted to pre-empt any accidents.

Dutch Traffic Safety Association VVN has criticised the idea as it rewards bad behaviour.

VVN employee Jose de Jong said: "We don't want people to use phones when they're dealing with traffic, even when walking around."

"People must always look around them, to check if cars are actually stopping at the red signals."

This is not the first time such an approach has been adopted.

Last year, authorities in the southern German city of Augsburg installed in-ground traffic lights at crossings in two crowded train stations, after they saw a similar system in Cologne.

The flashing lights cost about 10,000 euros (S$15,300) each.

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