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Look down: Dutch pedestrians on phones get LED sidewalk warnings

By Washington Post, adapted by Newsela staff 02.23.17

In a main square in London, England, three teenagers tweet

and message their friends, unaware of their surroundings
and absorbed in the functions of their devices. Photo by: In
Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

It has become a familiar scene. A group of

people stand on a street corner, waiting for the
crosswalk light to turn green. At least a few of
these people are staring down at their
smartphones. Maybe all of them are. They may
be scrolling through Instagram. They could be concentrating on a game of "Cooking Fever."
Whatever they're doing with their phones, they're not paying attention to the traffic light ahead.
One of them might even step into oncoming traffic. They could be hit by a car.

These people have been described as "smartphone zombies" by the Verge. The Verge has a
website and does podcasts and video series about technology news. The "zombies" have
become a real problem. Now one Dutch town wants to fix the problem before it gets worse.

Officials in Bodegraven-Reeuwijk are starting a program they think may help protect distracted
walkers. The town is about 25 miles south of Amsterdam in the western Netherlands. The
Netherlands is a country in Europe. At a handful of intersections around town, they have
installed strips of light into the pavement. They call these strips "+Lichtlijn," or "light lines" in

hey used light emitting diode (LED) lights. A

LED Light Lines Where The Sidewalk Ends T
diode is a tube with two ends. In an LED light, the diode contains a semiconductor, made of a
metallic crystal. As electricity passes through the diode, heat and light are released.

The "light lines" can change color. The colors in the light lines are timed to switch to match the
traffic lights hanging above them. As soon as the crossing light turns red or green, so does the
one in the ground.
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he officials say that people on their

Officials Expect Pedestrians To Be Looking Down T
phones are going to be staring downwards. With lights in the ground, it's more likely that they
will know when the traffic light changes color.

"The lure of social media, games, WhatsApp and music is great," said town spokesperson Kees
Oskam. It makes people less likely to pay attention to traffic, though.

Not everyone thinks the project is a good idea. Veilig Verkeer Nederland (VVN) is a group that
promotes road safety in the Netherlands. They don't like the idea of the light lines.

"What you are doing is rewarding bad behavior," a spokesman for the group said.

Still, schools in Bodegraven-Reeuwijk that are near the test light lines are reportedly excited
about the new program. They are hoping it will increase safety.

HIG Traffic Systems developed the light lines. The company hopes other cities in the
Netherlands will be interested in the system as well.

Deaths And Injuries In The U.S. From Distracted Walking In the United States, "distracted
walking" has become an increasingly serious problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration is a government group that works to prevent car accidents. They say 5,376
people were killed while walking in the United States in 2015. That is more than the 4,884 who
died this way the year before. Nearly 3 out of 4 of those deaths happen in areas that are not
intersections. About 1 out of 5 happen in places where people are supposed to be walking.
These include crosswalks and sidewalks.

In 2015, the National Safety Council did a study about distracted walking. They found it was
responsible for more than 11,100 injuries between 2000 and 2011.

The council warns people never to use a cellphone or other electronic device while walking.

amela Lampitt is a Democratic

Some Lawmakers Want To Ban Pedestrian Devices P
lawmaker in New Jersey. Last year she introduced a bill to protect people from getting hurt while
walking and using their phones. If the bill became a law, it would have banned walking and
texting at the same time. It would also make it illegal to walk while using phones, iPads or other
devices that are not hands-free. Violators could have been fined $50, 15 days in prison or both.

"Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and
drivers on the road," said Lampitt.
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