'Smombies' on our streets: NRMA Pedestrian Report

New research conducted by the NRMA has found that over one-in-three pedestrians are behaving like 'smombies' (smartphone zombies) by crossing busy city streets while engrossed in their smartphone or wearing headphones.

Download: Look Up - Keeping Pedestrians Safe

The NRMA has today released its pedestrian safety report, Look Up, as the fifth instalment in its road safety series. The report includes an observational study of 26,390 pedestrians across three intersections in the Sydney CBD and one in Parramatta.

The report also calls for:

  • 36 per cent crossed the road while distracted by their smartphone or wearing earphones
  • Almost eight per cent (7.5%) crossed the road illegally
  • Over three per cent (3.4%) crossed illegally while using their smartphone or wearing earphones.

    Pedestrian trauma accounts for 17 per cent of all deaths on NSW roads and nine per cent of serious injuries. More than 1,900 pedestrians are killed or hospitalised from road traffic crashes each year and in 2018, 67 pedestrians lost their lives."
  • NRMA Road Safety Expert Dimitra Vlahomitros said smombies needed to put their phones in their pockets and focus on crossing intersections safely.

    "Distracted walking is a form of inattentional blindness and when you undertake this behaviour you are effectively playing chicken with fast moving traffic - the results of which can be catastrophic," Ms Vlahomitros said.

    'Almost every Australian owns a smartphone and too many of them are focusing on their screens or blocking out their ability to hear traffic instead of focusing on crossing the road safely. The fact that three in every 100 pedestrians are crossing illegally while using their phones is also alarming.

    'Statistics already show that the elderly, very young and those who have been drinking are already at risk when crossing the road, so adding smombies to the list only further enhances the need to crack down on this behaviour."

    Look Up also outlines a series of engineering solutions to help keep pedestrians safe. These include refuge islands on large streets, countdown timers, installation of over-and-under-pass bridges, longer walk times for pedestrians and reflective pavement markings to improve visibility.

    Look Up, also calls for the removal of green-on-green signals, which places pedestrians at particular risk by putting them on a collision course with turning vehicles.

    The observational study occurred during April and May 2019 between 7:00 am - 1:00 pm and 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm. The four intersections were York/Margaret streets, Pitt/Park streets and Pitt/Goulburn streets in Sydney and Church/Argyle Streets in Parramatta.