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27 Sep 2011

Smartphones are amazing – fact. The era of mobiles where the functions were limited to calls, text messaging, a shockingly bad quality camera and perhaps mini Solitaire, is well and truly over. With the birth of the iPhone, the Blackberry, social networking and the mobile app (of which there are now thousands), you literally can’t pull our attention away from the smartphone.

This is fine if you’re in the safety of your own home but when crossing a busy road of traffic is something else entirely.

A survey by LV car insurance this week has revealed just how distracted we can get by our beloved smartphones, almost to the point of endangering our own lives and the lives of others. The poll saw one in ten pedestrians admitting to regularly crossing the road while distracted by a gadget, despite a third (31 per cent) admitting their ability to cross safely is extremely impaired when doing so.

Twenty million people are now estimated to own a smartphone, so the implications of this research could be very serious indeed. If these figures were to be applied across the nation, this might suggest two million people are regularly endangering their lives at crossings and junctions, all for the sake of the small shiny object in their hand.

The study, which was conducted in busy urban areas across London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cardiff, also saw a gender divide between smartphone users and their attitude to crossing busy roads. Fifty-eight per cent of men who were observed crossing roads while using a mobile phone did so unsafely compared to 53 per cent of women.

How silly can we be? Are we that addicted that we can’t just pocket our smartphone for a few moments while we safely cross a road, and then take it out again?

Yesterday’s (26 September) Guardian reported that the smartphone obsession among young people is such that they would rather choose the latest gadget on the market rather than a flashy car. The report suggests the love affair between motoring and younger generations may be coming to an end because handheld gadgets are just becoming too darn attractive!  And as the obsession with the smartphone increases, the percentage of 17 to 20-year-olds with driving licences has fallen – from 48 per cent in the early 1990s to 35 per cent in 2010.

So not only are many pedestrians stepping out into busy traffic transfixed by their smartphone, many of them will not be drivers and therefore, may not be as conscious of what a hazard they could be causing. A dangerous combination…
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