“Smartphone zombies” are everywhere, glued to their devices, oblivious to traffic warnings and vehicles while walking. The municipality of Bodegraven-Reeuwijk in the Netherlands has taken matters into its own hands by implementing pavement lights with the hope of protecting preoccupied pedestrians.

Dubbed “+Lightlines” (+Lichtlijn in Dutch), the strips of light are composed of bright, laser-like LEDs embedded into the pavement. Able to change color, the system is synced with standard traffic lights, alerting inattentive crossers.

The lights are positioned in a way to maximize visibility by smartphone users.

“People are increasingly distracted by the smartphone. The attraction of social media, games, WhatsApp and music is great, [but] comes at the expense of attention to traffic. As a government, we cannot easily reverse this trend, but we can anticipate it,” said Kees Oskam, a town council member.

Installed by HIG Traffic Systems, the +Lightlines system is acting as a pilot at one location. The company plans to introduce it to other urban areas if the trial proves successful.

+Lightlines System smartphone zombies (Courtesy of HIG)

+Lightlines System for ‘Smartphone Zombies.’ (Courtesy of HIG)

Bodegraven-Reeuwijk is not alone in this experiment. Sydney and the German city of Augsburg have also installed pavement lights in an attempt to protect bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

The VVN (Veilig Verkeer Nederland or Safe Traffic Netherlands) isn’t quite as enthusiastic about the concept, however.

“What you are doing is rewarding bad behavior,” said a VVN spokesperson.

A 2016 study conducted in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome found that 17% of citizens used their mobile devices while walking. That number rose to almost 25% for those in the 25-35 age group.

Smartphone zombies are so pervasive that the slang word ‘smombie’—cross between the words ‘smartphone’ and ‘zombie’—was voted Germany’s Youth Word of the Year in 2015.

So, what do you think: is this a good idea or just perpetuating the ubiquitous, smartphone zombie epidemic?

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