Pedestrian Safety & Phone

It’s crazy out there…phones, cars, and pedestrians. Heads up and more.

Crossing the street with phones is not safe. This is a 2016 campaign reported in the (Pittsburgh) Tribune-Review
Pedestrians and Phones Seeking Danger!
photo credit: Andrew Russell, Tribune-Review

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I read that this column was originally about distracted driving. Well, how about distracted pedestrians? I live in the city and when I take the car out there are scooters and bikes to avoid, but the most dangerous seem to be the pedestrians who jaywalk and never look up from their phones. These people don’t pay any attention to the road! Conner,San Francisco

Dear Connor: You are in the right, except that you are in the car and you must keep safe at all cost. Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are increasing. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found more pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year than in any year since 1990; approximately 17 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed each day.

It’s grim. Your only choice as an urban driver is to be uber-cautious and reduce your speed. In cities, I think humans now need to drive as if they were an autonomous car. They should have super-sensors, be programmed to give way to pedestrians (right or wrong), and travel at or below the posted speed limit. Fewer right-on-red turns would help too.

Calling Situational Awareness

When pedestrians use phones they have reduced situational awareness and distracted attention. A 2008 safety study gave 30 pedestrians mobile phones to talk on and another 30 pedestrians mobile phones to hold while walking on a prescribed route. The research team planted five obtrusive objects along the route. Pedestrians conversing on the mobile phones recalled fewer of the objects than did those holding a phone but not conversing. There’s a lot more research since then on reduced situational awareness from phones. The findings apply to both pedestrians and drivers. Imagine when both type of journey makers never register seeing one another!

Boot Camp for Peds

Here’s an expression that recruits to military boot camp learn: WALK TALL, WALK PROUD, HEAD UP, EYES FORWARD. For pedestrians, it’s a 21st century update to the old adage ‘look-left, look-right’ before crossing.


Should Citizens Use Phones to Report Traffic Violations?

Some communities will let private citizens upload pictures of traffic violations..what’s next?

source: attorneypaulhanson.com. A new spin on handheld phones!

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I read an article about people using smartphones to take pictures of traffic violations, and then forwarding these pictures to a city department that will issue tickets. Is everyone going to be reporting everyone else? Do you think this is a good use of our smartphones? Gregor, Marin City

Dear Gregor : In this case, the devil will be in the details. The NYT article reports that law enforcement officials in Washington, DC are considering this program because traffic fatalities and serious injuries have been on the rise since 2015. (Speculation here, but is this related to more distracted driving and cell phones?)

The article states that only Malibu, Ca. is doing citizen ticketing today. Local volunteers get 96+ hours of training with the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Meanwhile, many cities use ‘411′ type apps that let citizens upload photos of downed tree limbs, potholes, scooter violations, etc. The next step could be traffic violations. But this assumes that time stamps, geocoding, and levels of official review and appeals all support each other. It is a brave new world of smartphones.

Is Passenger Phone Safe to Answer?

Driver Distraction…Phones gone Bad.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I noticed that you often take questions about drivers using phones. How about the case when a passenger uses their phone in the car, but someone else is driving them? Is this a safety issue or is it OK to do? TT, San Francisco

Dear TT: You question caught me off-guard, probably because I’ve seen all those movies where the hurried passenger in a taxi places call after call. Surprising, at least to me, it that it is not a good idea to make a call as a passenger. The literature says that overhearing only half of a conversation—a halfalogue”—is more distracting than other kinds of conversations because the listener misses the other side of the story. It’s serious: in the UK, passengers who take a phone call face a fine if they are training a new driver. Phones down. Thanks for elucidating me!