German city installs traffic lights in the ground to catch the eye of "smartphone zombies"

After a teenager was struck and killed in Munich, German authorities are hoping the move can save careless pedestrians

Augsburg, Swabia, Bavaria, Germany, Smartphone, Zombies, Smombies, traffic lights, pedestrians,

One of the two sets of lights introduced along Augsburg's tramline [YouTube]

The Germans have their own word for people who walk around, eyes glued to their mobile devices. Smombies, a hybrid of smartphone and zombies. And now one German city has developed its own system to keep these zombies alive by preventing them from walking unawares in front of moving traffic.

While it seems like a contemporary problem akin to the growing list of death by selfies, a number of widely reported cases of smombie accidents have made waves in the German press; in March, a 15-year-old woman in Munich was dragged along by a street tram, losing her life. And two more accidents in Augsburg, resulting in only minor injuries, have propelled the Bavarian city to come up with an innovative way to keep careless pedestrians safe.

At two tram stops in the city, officials have installed flashing ground-level red lights, designed to catch the attention of people walking around while looking down at their phones. In operation since last week, the lights start flashing whenever a tram is approaching.

Speaking to the local newspaper, Tobias Harms of the municipal authority told Die Augsburger Allgemeine, “We realised that the normal traffic lights are not in the line of sight of many pedestrians these days. So we decided to have an additional set.

“The more we have, the more people are likely to notice them,” he added.

Augsburgers have predominantly reacted very positively to the lights installation, with one pedestrian saying, “I think it makes sense. You always see young people these days breaking red lights. This makes it more obvious when they need to stop and wait.”

Others, including a smartphone-using teen for whom the lights were put in place, were less positive.

“To be honest, I didn’t even notice it,” he said. “Maybe it’d be useful at night, but yeah... I didn’t eve realise it was there until just now.”

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