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Mobile use crossing roads condemned

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 United States, 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, Leah Thompson, Frederick Rivara, Rajiv Ayyagari and Beth Ebel of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Centre 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. "Use of these devices is associated with slower crossing times. Text messaging appears particularly risky."

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.

The observers recorded "distracting" activities, including talking on the phone, text messaging, or listening to music on mobile devices, as well as talking to others or dealing with children or pets.

Almost one in three (29.8%) were doing something else when they crossed the road. More than one in 10 (11%) were listening to music; 7.3% were texting; and 6% were talking on the phone. Those who were distracted by a mobile phone took significantly longer to cross the road, between 0.75 seconds and 1.29 seconds longer.

People using those phones to send or receive text messages took almost two seconds (18%) longer to cross the average junction of three to four lanes than those who were not texting at the time.

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