Call to stigmatise roadside texting

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Using mobile phones while crossing roads should be stigmatised in the same way as drink-driving in order to cut dangerous behaviour by pedestrians, a new report suggests.

Almost a third of pedestrians are distracted, including by mobile phones or other electronic devices, when they cross roads, putting them at greater potential risk of being involved in an accident, researchers found.

Texting was the most dangerous of all the distractions analysed by the team from the University of Washington in the US, with texters four times more likely to ignore lights, to cross at the middle of a junction, or fail to look both ways before stepping off the kerb.

The authors, from the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center in Seattle, said public attitudes need to shift to treat crossing a road while distracted in the same manner as drink-driving in order to increase safety.

“Our study found that many pedestrians send text messages or use mobile devices while crossing the street,” they wrote.

It added: “Ultimately a shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behaviour, similar to efforts around drunk-driving, will be important to limit the … risk of mobile device use.”

The paper, published in the online journal Injury Prevention, surveyed 1,102 pedestrians crossing 20 busy road junctions in Seattle last summer at varying times of the day.