London: A new pan-European study commissioned by Ford shows that smartphones can be just as dangerous and distracting for pedestrians as they are for drivers.
A host of studies published in recent weeks have highlighted the dangers of driver distraction when it comes to mobile devices. The annual StateFarm report on teen driver behaviour, published on September 30 shows that while over 90% of young drivers know that texting while driving is dangerous, 44% admit to doing it anyway.
Likewise, the latest American Automobile Association (AAA) research, published on October 22 finds that voice command systems designed to cut distractions can prove to be more of a potential danger than physically handing a phone while negotiating the route ahead.
But this distraction is not confined to drivers. Ford's study of 10,000 Europeans found that 57% admit to using their smartphones in some way when they're crossing the road (whether it's at a formal crossing point, such as traffic lights, or not), and 47% said that they'd continued a phone conversation while crossing.
Other distracting phone-based behaviors included listening to music (32%), texting (9%) and even gaming or watching video while crossing (3%).
More worryingly, when the results are filtered by age group, and just 18-24-year-olds are considered, smartphone use while crossing soars to 86%. Over two thirds of young people (68%) said they'd been talking on the phone while crossing, while one third had texted and 22% said that they'd had an accident or a close call with a vehicle.
"It's one thing to walk along the pavement with headphones on listening to music, but stepping into a road while texting, playing a game or browsing online is extremely dangerous," said Jim Graham, manager, Ford Driving Skills For Life.
As in the US, road accidents are the leading cause of death for 18-24-year-olds in Europe. Between 2003 and 2013, 85000 pedestrians were killed on European roads.
What's more, according to leading UK road safety charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), in 2013 alone, 23% of accidents on British roads involving a pedestrian also involved circumstances where the pedestrian was distracted, failed to look or was careless.
"Pedestrian fatalities are rising faster than any other group right now so it is vital that drivers are more sympathetic and aware of pedestrians when they make their journeys," said Sarah Sillars, chief executive officer, IAM. "There is no need to blame any party when it comes to how to reduce the numbers of people killed and injured on our roads -- all road users need to look out for each other and ensure we minimize the impact of our own and others' unpredictable behavior."