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"Hello, you just used the zebra crossing with your eyes glued to your mobile phone. According to the Wenzhou regulations on the promotion of civilised behaviour, anyone who looks at their mobile phone while crossing the road shall be fined 10 yuan."

That was the message from traffic policeman Gao Quantan in fining a woman who had just used a zebra crossing while fixated on her mobile phone, in Lucheng District of Wenzhou, east China's Zhejiang province, The Beijing News reported recently.

The phenomenon of someone focusing on their mobile phone over another person, or indeed what is going on around them, has been dubbed "phubbing".*

This recent incident marks the first example of someone being issued a ticket for phubbing while crossing the road since Wenzhou's regulations on the promotion of civilised behaviour came into o force on January 1.

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After the ticket was issued, a volunteer dressed up as the well-known Chinese cartoon character "Slow Sheep" gave the woman a "Slow Sheep" doll to signal that she needed to walk across the zebra crossing faster next time.

It's dangerous for people to cross the road too slowly, or without looking where they are going, said Gao, who explained that "the purpose of issuing tickets is to raise public awareness."

The case sparked heated online discussion. Some experts believe that to prevent similar behaviour, appropriate laws and regulations must be implemented, while others felt more laws and regulations might increase the burden on law enforcement.

According to a survey conducted by China Youth Daily in 2017, 72.2 percent of respondents admitted to looking at their mobile phones while crossing the road, revealing a nationwide problem.

"While issuing tickets cannot eradicate the problem, it can alert people to the consequences and help curb the tendency of people to check their phones at unsafe times," Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance told The Beijing News.

Zhu noted that, over the past few years, there had been many avoidable injuries and deaths caused by people looking at their mobile phones rather than where they were going.

"I think such policies are essential," said Zhu, adding that the Wenzhou regulations were designed to save lives.
However, Zhu Wei, an associate professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told The Beijing News that if policies, laws, and regulations were relied upon to solve all social problems, there would be adverse effects – such as adding to the rising costs of lawmaking and enforcement.

*The Western definition of phubbing is a little different – it is used to describe the action of snubbing someone you are talking to in favour of looking at your mobile phone.

Content sourced from the People's Daily Online here