'Smombies': The dangerous trend putting lives at risk on our roads

There’s a growing problem among pedestrians with millions of Australians being dubbed “smombies” for their lack of attention while crossing roads.

New research conducted by the NRMA has found more than a third of pedestrians were distracted by smartphones or headphones while crossing roads in built-up areas.

NRMA identifies such pedestrians as ‘smombies’ – a portmanteau of smartphone and zombie, which is gaining traction worldwide.

Their research, which studied 26,390 pedestrians at four Sydney junctions, 7.5 per cent of pedestrians were crossing the road illegally by jaywalking.

According to NRMA, 'smombies' - pedestrians were distracted by smartphones or headphones while crossing roads - were a growing problem on Australian roads.
'Smombies' are a growing problem in Australian cities. Source: Getty, file.

Of those, 3.4 per cent were also distracted by headphones or mobiles.

Those statistics are particularly worrying considering pedestrian trauma accounts for 17 per cent of all deaths on NSW roads.

More than 1500 pedestrians are hit on NSW roads each year.

There is currently no law which states a pedestrian cannot use mobile devices while legally crossing the road.

Crackdown needed

NRMA Road Safety Expert Dimitra Vlahomitros said it is vital smombies eradicate the distracting habit of looking at their phones while crossing roads.

“Distracted walking is a form of inattentional blindness and when you undertake this behaviour you are effectively playing chicken with fast moving traffic,” she said.

“The results of which can be catastrophic.”

A file image of pedestrians crossing the road at a zebra crossing using their phones. NRMA has found more than a third of pedestrians are distracted.
More than a third of pedestrians are distracted while crossing the road, NRMA research has found. Source: Getty, file.

Vlahomitros said “too many” Australians were looking at their phones on roads and there needs to be a “crackdown on this behaviour”.

NRMA will release a new safety report, Look Up, on Thursday which looks at methods to protect pedestrians.

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 are several suggestions from the NRMA to protect pedestrians.

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.

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