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German city designs traffic lights for oblivious pedestrians

Putting the red light where they can see it.
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The German city of Augsburg has taken a novel approach to dealing with pedestrians too buried in their smartphone screens to notice traffic signals. By embedding flashing red LEDs in the sidewalks at busy pedestrian crossings, the city has moved those signals right into their line of sight.

While some Augsburgers saw the new lights as a waste of taxpayer dollars, city officials decided to install the lights after a 15-year-old girl was struck and killed by a commuter train. The local newspaper reported the girl was listening to headphones and looking at her smartphone when she walked onto the train tracks.

Helping pedestrians multi-task safely as they absentmindedly navigate the city isn't entirely new. in 2014, the China's Chongqing City experimented with a 165-foot long dedicated walking lane for smartphone users. In Taiwan, officials also considered distracted walking tickets for people tapping away at their phones in the country's chaotic roadways.

Stateside, the problem might be even worse. The US Department of Transportation has identified a connection between rising pedestrian deaths and increased smartphone use, while a University of Washington study concluded that one in three Americans is busy texting, emailing, checking Facebook or otherwise lost in their phone around dangerous intersections.

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