Smartphone, simple message

Photo / AP
Photo / AP

Pedestrians glued to their smartphones in South Korea were given something else to look at this week, as officials in Seoul launched a safety campaign to keep them from walking into busy traffic.

Smartphone-related collisions between pedestrians and vehicles in South Korea have more than doubled in five years to around 1000 reported incidents in 2014, according to the Transportation Safety Authority.

The problem is especially acute in a country where smartphone penetration currently stands at around 80 per cent of the population, most of whom seem intent on mastering the art of walking and texting.

In a bid to reduce the number of people either stepping carelessly into oncoming traffic or slamming into each other on the sidewalk, officials in Seoul have begun installing the first batch of 300 warning signs this week in five locations across the capital.

"We picked locations with the highest number of young pedestrians since the majority of smartphone users are in their teens to their 30s," Kim Ooc Kyeong, a Seoul city official in charge of the project, told AFP.

Some signs are attached to traffic light poles and depict a person looking at his smartphone as he is about to be hit by a car.

But given that the target audience are people who wouldn't look up from their screens to see such warnings, other signs have been plastered on the actual sidewalk.

Neither type of warning seemed to have registered with locals interviewed at lunchtime by AFP.

"I'm always on my smartphone, and I've never seen the signs before," said Kim Hyun Chul, 29.

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