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Seoul campaign addresses latest public safety issue — texting while walking

As amusing as it may be to watch texting walkers barrel their way straight into a pole or fall into a mall fountain, the prevalence of distracted pedestrians has become a serious public safety issue. It’s not only those behind the wheel we now have to warn not to text, but also those outside of vehicles altogether who seem more dedicated to sending that last email or seeing that last Instagram post than noting their surroundings, sometimes with deadly consequences. So now, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has unveiled traffic and pedestrian signs whose purpose is to alert walkers to the dangers of using smartphones while traversing the busy streets of a metropolitan city.

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The move comes just a couple months after Germany began embedding traffic signs into sidewalks themselves in hopes of actually getting texting pedestrians to pay attention, even while on their phones. But Seoul’s authorities haven’t yet resigned themselves to the reality of texting while walking — instead, its signs, which are to be installed in five areas of the city, are more of a safety campaign. It’s a joint effort between the government and the National Police Agency, and is aimed primarily at children, teens, and young adults, the major smartphone-using population of South Korea.

“The five areas where the pilot project will be implemented are Hongdae, City Hall, Yonsei University, Gangnam Station, and Jamsil Station, where there are many accidents and pedestrians in their 10-30s,” the Seoul Metropolitan Government website said.

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The official announcement adds, “The traffic sign is designed to show pedestrians at a glance a dangerous situation in which a smartphone user runs into a car while walking on the street. In order to enhance the understanding, the phrase ‘Warning: Be careful while using a Smartphone while Walking’ will be added to the sign.”

The government has also created signs that straightforwardly read, “Walk Safely,” which is meant to be “simple and clear so that the pedestrians who are mostly looking down at their smart phones can easily see it.”