Emerging Technologies

Look up! Seven solutions to the dangers of walking and using your phone

People use their mobile phones in downtown Arles, France July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile - RC15BE8C3350

Methods are being created for safer streets after many pedestrians have been injured by walking and texting. Image: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Leanna Garfield
Reporter, Tech Insider
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Technological Transformation

Texting is killing us.

More than 1,500 pedestrians landed in emergency rooms in 2010 because of accidents sustained while texting and walking at the same time — up nearly 500% since 2005, according to an Ohio State University study. Other researchers say phones account for 10% of pedestrian injuries, and a half-dozen deaths a year.

This isn't a joke anymore. A handful of brilliant minds have formed ideas to tackle this worldwide epidemic, including texter-only lanes and signs that discourage checking Facebook.

Here are seven innovations that could persuade people to look up — at least when they're crossing the street.

Signs that warn drivers of texting pedestrians...

Swedish designers Jacob Sempler and Emil Tiismann created these traffic signs for Stockholm.

"One morning when I walked to work, I almost got run over by a car, because I was staring at my stupid smartphone," 29-year-old Sempler previously told Tech Insider. "I looked around and realized that I wasn't the only one."

They were installed in three different locations in November 2015.

"The thing is though, that the people who really need to see this sign, are most likely just gonna pass it with their eyes glued to their screens," he said.

...and signs that tell pedestrians to put down their phones.

The city of Hayward, California installed seven snarky signs in early 2015, including one that reads "Heads up! Cross the street, then update Facebook."

Another sign in the series reminded drivers to slow down, reading "35 mph — it's a speed limit, not a suggestion."

A lane only for phone users.

A popular stretch of sidewalk in Chongqing, China was designated for phone users in September 2014.

The project was meant to encourage people to be more mindful of their phone use.

Predictably, it's not been so successful. Hordes of people are stopping to take photos of the special sidewalk, BBC News reports.

Anti-phone announcements in subways.

Since 2013, passengers who ride Hong Kong's subways have heard the announcement, "Don't keep your eyes only on your mobile phone."

The phrase is read by a monotone voice in three languages on both the train cars and escalators.

A fine for distracted walkers.

In 2012, the Utah Transit Authority imposed a $50 civil fine for "distracted walking," which includes phone use. Repeat offenses could cost $100.

"Anecdotally, it has changed the way people behave, and they are doing it [crossing the street] the right way more often,"UTA General Manager Mike Allegra told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Apps that know when texters are walking into an intersection.

There are a few apps that try to tackle texting while walking. Type n Walk lets users text while the camera shows them what's ahead (although it doesn't work with iMessage).

Others are in the works. The app Audio Aware will reportedly pause your music if it detects a siren or screeching tires.

Rutgers University engineers are also working on an app that senses when people using phones are walking into traffic, according to The Wall Street Journal. When they do, it locks their phone screens. Currently, there are two different versions: one that taps into a phone's GPS and another that works with shoe sensors.

A ring that glows only when important texts come in.

The Ringly subtly changes color to notify users of important updates.

This minimalist wearable wasn't specifically designed to stop texters from walking into traffic. But it acknowledges peoples' obsession with technology and encourages us to only check our phones when absolutely necessary.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How venture capital is investing in AI in the top five global economies — and shaping the AI ecosystem

Piyush Gupta, Chirag Chopra and Ankit Kasare

May 24, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum