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Smartphone users who text while they walk becoming a hazard

48 Comments

On a busy commercial street in Tokyo, Mr A, while about to climb the steps to a train station, staggered as he was struck from behind. He turns and sees a youth, who appears to be a student, who had been so wrapped up in his smartphone that he'd banged right into him from behind.

At least no bones were broken.

"He just muttered, 'Aw, I couldn't help it,' and I stood there and glared at him," Mr A relates.

By the end of 2016, according to a study by the MM Research Institute, 67.3% of the mobile phones in use will be smartphones. Which means, says Shukan Post (May 3-10), there will be that many more people perambulating while blissfully unaware of their surroundings, as they squint at and tap the screens of their personal communications devices.

Research confirms that walking while using one of these gadgets is dangerous, Takahiro Higuchi, associate professor of cognitive science at Tokyo Metropolitan University, tells the magazine.

"While their attention is focused on the screen, they disregard other pedestrians," he says. "More than in crosswalks where caution is needed, they pay even less attention on regular streets."

Particularly at risk are seniors or the handicapped, with whom phone users frequently collide, says a Mr B, a volunteer who works with the handicapped.

"While using the phones, people's walking speed slows and they tend to only look right in front of them," says Toshikazu Shimazaki of the Nihon University Faculty of Engineering. "The more they focus on the display, they less attention they pay to people walking around them."

The smartphone user thus becomes a "moving barrier," and his victims the elderly, the handicapped and small children.

Professor Katsumi Tokuda of Tsukuba University cites a survey in which 42% of mothers with small children said they had the experience of colliding with a smartphone user.

According to Kazuhiro Kozuka, professor of media informatics at Aichi University of Technology (AUT), if a person walks with empty hands his or her view lingers on objects for less than half a second, permitting the eyes to wander about to take in the surroundings. If walking while conversing by telephone, this field of vision narrows, and the time for views to linger becomes longer.

But if walking while sending a twitter message, even if the person still looks forward, there's hardly any peripheral vision at all.

"When you send a Twitter message via a smartphone while walking, your field of vision shrinks to one-third," says Kozuka. "This adversely affects judgment and sense of caution, making it easier to bump into people and vehicles."

Be as it may, Shukan Post continues, more people are at last starting to raise objections to this hazardous behavior. According to one survey via the Internet, 83% of respondents said they were in favor of a regulation banning or restricting use of smartphones while in motion.

The desk for fielding complaints from citizens in Tokyo's Minato Ward says it has received requests from people asking for anti-phone statutes after they "collided with a phone user and got knocked down." Reports of accidents on station platforms and steps are gradually being collated, and while the numbers are still small, indications are that broken bones and fatalities as a result of smartphone mishaps, occasionally result.

"From surveys taken around 2007, people felt it was a problem that could be dealt with simply by encouraging phone users to 'mind their manners' and 'show consideration for others,'" says the aforementioned Tokuda. "But since then, the number of smartphones has increased exponentially and the problem has only grown worse.

"Just as regulations were put into place to deal with smokers on the street, if people can't control themselves with phones, then isn't it going to be necessary to make laws? Even just by raising it to the level of debate, this will hopefully send a wake-up message to phone users," Tokuda says.

One possible solution might be to convince telephone manufacturers to build in functions to prevent phone use while in motion.

"The time is fast approaching when the manufacturers will have to seriously take up measures to deal with this 'aruki-sumaho,'" AUT's Kozuka remarks. "And some moves in this direction have already begun, of their own volition."

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

48 Comments
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Becoming? Wake up, it started with texting while walking and is just getting worse. Damn near hit a kid with my car because they walked infront of me out on to the street, in traffic, without even once looking up from their phone.

Slammed on my brakes, laid on the horn, and got the deer in the headlights look like "What's going on". Chewed their arse out, but left knowing that I just wasted my breathe. (Made me feel better though for doing it!)

22 ( +24 / -2 )

Maybe it's time to fine them.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I've read a survey on this, and the survey says that more than 80% of them say it's certainly dangerous.

I guess that very many people, if not 80%, would agree, but very few people seem to care or might be thinking they are careful enough.

One time, I saw a young girl texting-walking in the street and bumping into an old man. The old man said gently, "Look where you going, OK?" The girl shouted, "None of your business! It's my right!" That's what you might get from many of those.

To be fair, this isn't particularly a Japanese phenomenon. I'm a bit of a world traveller, and I've seen the same in many countries.

I hate to say it, but these people won't stop this, until they've seen a big accident right in front of them or have been involved in one, due to texting-walking.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Wish it was only pedestrians ...not a day goes by when I don't see a car driver using a smartphone / keitai staring at a screen or typing while driving ( often through a red light ) cops dont seem to care much around here. Way more dangerous than pedestrians.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Its not just texting, its the gaming that i hate. This morning too, walked up the stairs of the station behind a salaryman and he suddenly stopped, i walk past him and yes sir, he was playing a very popular coin puzzle game grrrrr

Besides the separate smoking rooms maybe they ought to introduce mobile gamingrooms.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It just intensifies the state of oblivion that is the perpetual default mode of most.

9 ( +11 / -3 )

A law will be implemented that penalises smart phone users but does not penalise those who use another gadget that is said to be "safer". Coincidentally, this device will be made only by Japanese manufacturers.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Some people use their mobile phones while on bike.

On a similar note, I've seen many kids reading comic books while pedaling. Have you?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Pedestrians have enjoyed immunity from being responsible for their actions in traffic for so long it is going to take a major shift in the traffic laws to wake them up. If a pedestrian or bicycle literally runs into an automobile, it is the auto drivers fault, automatically. This, as well as many other unbalanced rules have to change before there can be any meaningful change to both adult and children's behavior while walking or bicycling.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

No new legislation is needed...just employ your elbow to the ribs of the person not paying attention and the message will be received.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Warning these people of possible dangers often falls on deaf ears. They either say, "I have done nothing wrong!" "I've been careful enough!" "None of your business!" or "I haven't brought any trouble to anyone, have I!"

In other words, they don't think they are doing anything wrong, zero, although they answer it's dangerous, if asked. Strange enough, these two opposing feelings can coexist in many minds.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I have a game too. It's called "Stride rapidly down the station platform and try to knock cell phone users on their a$$."

4 ( +9 / -5 )

If a pedometer can measure a person's motion a smart phone can be made to distinguish walking motion and stop operating while a person is walking. It might be more effective to lobby for that in legislation.

As for drivers, distracted driving will eventually have to receive the same penalties as drinking and driving. In instances where the operator of a vehicle is texting, phoning or gaming and causes an accident, all costs should be borne by the driver, not insurance. It can be proven easily enough by checking phone records and the time of the accident.

It takes societies a while to come to terms with new technologies and decide what will and will not be tolerated.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

“While their attention is focused on the screen, they disregard other pedestrians,” he says. “More than in crosswalks where caution is needed, they pay even less attention on regular streets.”

Good to see the money wasn't wasted on getting an associate professor of cognitive science at Tokyo Metropolitan University to comment on this...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I think people have no conscience because they could cause an accident, a fire, or a train wreck. I'm posting this while I'm walking FYI

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I particularly love the ones that stop randomly when they're in front of you - especially when it's at the ticket gate of a station!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I particularly love the ones that stop randomly when they're in front of you - especially when it's at the ticket gate of a station!

They get a good shove from me. Anyone who blindly walks along without looking deserves a good bodycheck too. And you should always finish your checks people.

12 ( +16 / -5 )

I think people have no conscience because they could cause an accident, a fire, or a train wreck. I'm posting this while I'm walking FYI

Man, wars might even be started by walking and texting. Kim Jong Un might walk right into the button that launches World War 3.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is nothing new. I once watched a girl get hit by a car from texting on her phone. Landed on the hood with a death grip on that phone. Got off the car and continued walking and texting like nothing happened. I couldn't believe my eyes along with the rest of the people in the vicinity who suddenly just stopped in awe, so I can imagine what the person in the car felt. He had to get out and check to see if she even damaged the car, she didn't care one iota. Still can't believe it happened after all these years. Smart phones ran by dummies.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Why are they constantly targeting smart phones? texting on regular phones while walking can equally be a problem. Hell I sometimes see people walking and looking at a book/newspaper/flier, and that be dangerous as well. And lest we forget the car navigation systems that double as TVs (the ones that don't switch to the navigation mode while driving). But really you just need to be careful while you do it IF you do it. I sometimes do it or play some game on my 4km hike to work, but usually only on the streets where there's little to know traffic, and I still constantly look up and/or around to see if anyone's coming, and put my phone down to pass. People with their faces GLUED to their phones are a hazard, for sure.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Anyone who bumps into me using a phone/smartphone will wind up eating it!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Saw a guy this morning walking towards me with this scary grin on his face, looking down at his phone and grinning, grinning... That guy was SCARY. I got out of his way in a hurry.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

More serious than this, though, is the fact that there are a lot of people, especially junior high or highschool kids, using hand-held game consoles like the DS or PSP. They use BOTH hands for the machine, and ride with their elbows on the handles of their bicycles! I saw two wipe-outs last night because of it. Fortunately it was just the rider and there was no serious accident, but I've no doubt it happens. Needless to say a car or truck driver using any of the above devices while driving is putting a lot of people at risk.

I don't really think a law against people walking with and using their phone, but they can most certainly justify a law against people riding any kind of vehicle beyond their own two legs.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The other day, a 20 year old woman in Montreal was killed when she walked into the gap between two subway cars and was crushed to death as they ran her over. Surveillance video showed her looking down at her phone the whole time... completely oblivious.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

malfupete: Terrible indeed. Sounds like there's more at fault than just the woman using a smartphone, by your description. How on earth could she get there in the first place?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If a pedometer can measure a person's motion a smart phone can be made to distinguish walking motion and stop operating while a person is walking. It might be more effective to lobby for that in legislation.

FAIL. Many apps involve tracking the user's activities without user intervention (including a pedometer app) and your "solution" would disable those innocuous apps in addition to the ones that promote risky behavior. Also, I doubt you really meant the smartphone itself would be disabled because then you couldn't receive a call if you were moving when the call came in.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One of them walked right into me today. ( I came to a complete stop, but didn't actually move out of his way ). I did get a "sumimasen" but then he just walked on, looking down at his smafone, lol.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@smith: as far as I know, the Montreal Metro doesn't have the barriers in front of the cars... mind you, I haven't been there for years so I can't confirm but that's the only way I think she could have fallen down in there

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Smartphone users who text while they walk becoming a hazard

Google glass will fix this....or make it worse....

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Also, I doubt you really meant the smartphone itself would be disabled because then you couldn't receive a call if you were moving when the call came in.

I did indeed mean it. The incoming call could automatically go to a message system. Most calls are not that important. If you absolutely have to call your wife from the grocery store because you don't know the brand of yogurt she wants you to pick up, all you need to do is stop walking and the phone will turn on again.

As for disabling apps, the tech-geeks could solve that problem. That's what they like to do anyway. As you can probably tell, I'm not fond of an e-tether, especially one that endangers and/or annoys others by its inappropriate use.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This evil habit actually started about 15 years ago with "keitai." But it's causing outrage now because "smartphones" are a foreign phenom, thus making them easy targets.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

JeffLee: "This evil habit actually started about 15 years ago with "keitai." But it's causing outrage now because "smartphones" are a foreign phenom, thus making them easy targets."

Jeff has a point, although I'm not sure it's so much the foreign angle as it is simply the older generation targeting newer tech. You can safely use your cell phone while walking, same as you can safely be a teacher looking at a map of parents' houses while are walking around a neighbourhood for the mandatory visits. Have any of the critics ever looked at a guide book while walking overseas to get info or find a place? What's the difference?

Smart phones are not the problem. Idiots are. The latter include those who think smart phones are the problem.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Darwin in action. Just hope they don't take out too many innocents with them. Keep your eyes peeled for those with no vision and heads down. And on bicycles, no less!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

High school kids on bicycles texting... frickin' awful.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

god i hate it when they do that. i have to drag my shoes just to get there attention. 1 guy almost walked right into me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have great enjoyment using my 92KG educating the ignorant.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Let's be very careful before we start encouraging any new laws. Everyone (whether they will admit it or not) has had to use their phone once or twice when lost at a station or in an unfamiliar neighborhood. We can't make every annoyance or stupid act illegal.

Walking around lost is also very dangerous... it's hard to pay attention to anyone around you in a crowded area when you are looking up for (usually non-existent) street signs. GPS on my smart phone has saved me more than a few times and likely prevented me from bumping into people.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Smartphone users who text while they walk becoming a hazard

Oh, Oh.... Where's all those bicycle Nazi's..? This is their next calling... They drive a motor vehicle to work, or never walk or have to ride a bicycle, so they all for MORE ridiculous, void of all common-sense laws... This is their next big item in their agenda...

They won't stop until pedestrians are classified as Motor Vehicles... Think I'm kidding...? They have this inbred communist philosophy that everything that walks, crawls, on two wheels, whether human powered, or powered by a V8, should be treated EXACTLY the same...

If You Think I'm kidding, you haven't lived in Japan long enough... You wait... They will now have the under-equipped JCops checking Walking Registrations and Pedestrians papers... Oh, because someone could get killed, by an inattentive walker looking at his Iphone, and they will throw out some BS statistics out, that say, 50 people were maimed and killed by Inattentive Walkers last year... We must Treat Pedestrian Exactly like we treat Motor-Vehicle Operators...!

Think I'm joking... It's coming, here in Planet Japan... Stand By...

First they came for the Ten-Speed Riders, and I did not speak out-- Because I did not own a Ten Speed. Then they came for the Mamachari's, and I did not speak out-- Because I did not Ride a Mamachari. Then they came for All Bicycles, and I did not speak out-- Because I did not ride a Bicycle. Then they came for Pedestrians--and there was no one left to speak for me.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

thats the reason I dont use smart phone. it may make me crazy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

100% agree. What drives me crazy are people that are walking slowly while reading a text message. Too often it is difficult to walk around them due to narrow sidewalks and people coming the other way.... so you have to slow down to their pace until you're able to get around them. The selfishness of their actions in crowded areas is just wrong.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I got sick and tired of these w@nkers, who always expect others to accommodate them by stepping out of their way. Now I just bump right into them. But you can't keep making laws for everything; that would be ridiculous. Education is the answer, but until that happens I'll keep using my shoulder on them.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I got sick and tired of these w@nkers, who always expect others to accommodate them by stepping out of their way. Now I just bump right into them. But you can't keep making laws for everything; that would be ridiculous. Education is the answer, but until that happens I'll keep using my shoulder on them.

That's a given... and I rarely get bumped into by anyone doing their keitai or smartphone, what gets me, is these people that must read, or type messages on their phone while just getting off a train, where I usually have a 3-minute window to get to my next train, and these bone-heads, will act like they're on a Sunday stroll, mean-while they are holding up dozens of people that have places to be on a time-schedule, and cannot get around them... fricken morons...

Depending on my mood, I will sometimes push my way through... And that's when I'm being nice... You want to check your mail, do it in the corner, or out of the way, so you're not holding up people that have places to be!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm am so sick and tired of dodging people who are not looking where they're walking because their eyes are glued to their phones and they can't see 10cm in front of their faces. Now, I just let them bang into my shoulder if they don't have the wherewith all to pay attention and look where they walk.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Since I'm larger than the average Japanese it hasn't been a problem in Japan. They kinda bounce right off. Doesn't seem to be a problem in NYC because people know what would happen if they got in somebody's way while texting. But it is a stupid thing. Technology always has odd side effects.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many people in Japan are just dizzy when walking and using their smartphone.AND they walk on both the left and right sides of the pavement with gay abandon,which when I'm riding is a nightmare,particularly in the morn when they are rushing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I get this in Toronto too. No one is immune to this unless you don't have smartphones. People texting all the time walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk (smartphone - sidewalk skills - driving skills). This can only get worse

Once I was waiting at a light and there was a firetruck siren coming down the road behind me. A cop on a motorcycle comes up to the intersection to halt traffic as the sirens get closer. A girl texting starts walking across the road in front of me. The cop yells to the girl to halt. She does not. He yells again more forcefully. Nothing. I'm seeing this and going uh oh. The cop runs, no, jumps and dashes from his spot, takes down the girl, at the moment the firetruck makes a left turn missing her by a few metres. All safe. Glad the cop was there

We're winning the Darwin Award, and just trimming out our children and loved ones for the sake of a text message. This has to stop

0 ( +0 / -0 )

History is just repeating itself. My grandfather told me about a time and place when the AM radio was first introduced into the automobile then a sudden spike in accidents. I'm surprised we dont hear more about people watching TV while driving.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What is the "wrong side of the sidewalk" to walk on?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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