Seoul Tries to Battle Smartphone Zombies

Beware of Seoul's 'smartphone zombies' CNN
Beware of Seoul's 'smartphone zombies' CNN


People habitually do unsafe things, even while acknowledging the inherent danger — we often work under the blind assumption that bad consequences happen only to other people. Public safety campaigns have reduced the number of people who smoke, drive drunk and don't wear seat belts. Some governments are now tackling the increasingly common occurrence of pedestrian injuries and fatalities caused by smartphone-distracted pedestrians.

Last year the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons conducted a study finding that while 78 percent of American adults surveyed considered the behavior dangerous, 75 percent of people said it was "other people" who were most guilty of doing so. And a prior 2013 investigation by insurance firm Liberty Mutual found that 60 percent of petextrians engage in unsafe smartphones use while walking in public.

"So much attention has been paid, and rightly so, to distracted driving that we have ignored the fact that distracted walking and crossing can be just as risky," David Melton, a safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance, said at the time. "From an early age, we all learn how to safely cross the street — look both ways, wait for the walk sign — but as adults many of us seem to forget those simple rules."

One city tackling the issue is Seoul, South Korea, with street signs reminding people they're putting themselves in danger, as the CNN video above illustrates. Jin-Dong Kang, of the Seoul city government, says, "Smartphone related traffic accidents have tripled since 2010, so we decided to do something to prevent more of them from happening."

Seoul isn't the only city trying to keep its screen-focused residents and visitors safe. Earlier this year the German city Augsburg introduced blinking light arrays embedded in the sidewalk near tram lines so that people looking down at their mobile devices would be less likely to walk into an oncoming streetcar. And even Apple has tried to address the issue with its Transparent Texting concept. For now, though, we'll have to rely less on innovations and more on human common sense — good luck with that!