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AA warns of "zombie" pedestrians and cyclists

An AA-Populus poll of 24,070 drivers found most have seen pedestrians distracted by phones or headphones step out into the road

The AA has released an article dubbing “smombies”, or smartphone zombies, the latest menace on the roads.

According to the AA-Populus poll of 24,070, quoted today, 72% of drivers say they often see pedestrians step into the road while distracted by their phones, while AA patrols report an increase in “zombie pedestrians and joggers oblivious to traffic”.

The AA is often praised for its support of cycling, including as a member of British Cycling’s Choose Cycling Network, and its president, Edmund King OBE, recently told he supports more cycling infrastructure as beneficial for everyone. In an AA press release King warns of the dangers of pedestrians and cyclists experiencing "smartphone oblivion" on the roads.

More mobile phone use behind the wheel – but prosecutions for it are down

Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: “We can’t stop the march of technology but we need to halt the pedestrian, cycle and driver zombies.  Whether on two feet, two wheels or four, too many people are suffering from Smartphone Oblivion.

“When on the move our brains have much to take in and using technological gadgets means that we can’t always concentrate on so many things at once.  

“This is when we walk into traffic; don’t hear the truck or drive cocooned from the outside world.

"Our research suggests this problem is growing so we all need to use common sense to ensure that technological cocooning doesn’t endanger our lives or the lives of others.”

The AA article says pedestrians’ lack of attention may be a factor in some of the 446 pedestrian deaths in 2014.

It adds more drivers making claims for minor shunts are citing 'podestrians' [using iPods] or ‘Smombie pedestrians’ as the cause, and estimates pedestrian inattention is the cause of 17 collisions per day.

More than half of AA Insurance claims involving a collision with a pedestrian include causes such as:

‘Person on phone stepped out, wasn’t looking’
‘Pedestrian just walked out’
‘She looked the wrong way’
‘He walked into the side of the car’

However, Sam Jones, Campaigns Coordinator at CTC says although mobile phones and technology are a growing hazard, distracted driving is responsible for greater injuries on the roads.

He says: “All road users have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings, but this article unfortunately seems to focus on vulnerable road users while almost ignoring the greater danger: drivers distracted by technology.

“While CTC would never defend irresponsible cycling, a distracted cyclist or pedestrian is more likely to be a danger to themselves than others. A driver on the other hand, can endanger not just themselves, but their passengers and other road users."

The AA article tells motorists not to wear headphones, and “to be extra alert and slow down in areas frequented by cyclists and pedestrians".

According to the CTC in 2014 there were 24 fatalities and 111 serious injuries in crashes where police thought using a mobile phone was a contributory factor. Drivers are four times more likely to crash when using a phone, and more than half a million UK drivers have points on their licence for the offence, or being otherwise distracted.

Jones says though the government’s recent consultation on increasing fines for drivers using phones is welcome, without extra traffic policing, penalties mean nothing.

He adds: “Our President Jon Snow is therefore writing to all Police and Crime Commissioner candidates this week, asking them to commit to increasing the amount allocated to roads policing by at least 2% above inflation each year for the next four years should they be elected on 5 May.”

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