'Distracted' Austrians get road-crossing workshops

A woman in Vienna walking along while looking at a mobile phone Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Watch out: Walking while engrossed in a smartphone can be an accident waiting to happen

Austrians are being offered workshops focusing on how to cross the street safely in the smartphone age.

Organised by the Austrian Road Safety Board, the workshops warn people that there can be legal repercussions for pedestrians - not just drivers - in the event of a traffic collision if they were preoccupied with their phone at the time, public broadcaster ORF reports. The workshops also highlight other possible distractions, such as smoking, eating or drinking while on the move.

"We observed 2,500 pedestrians and saw that 29% of them were being distracted while crossing the road, which is of course the most dangerous situation for a pedestrian - these are alarming numbers" says Martin Pfanner, head of the road safety board in the western state of Vorarlberg.

Young people who spoke to ORF welcomed the workshops. One woman describes a near miss while driving her moped across a zebra crossing. "I didn't immediately look, and was already driving across, and then this person came out writing on his smartphone. It was very lucky that I didn't hit him."

ORF notes that the number of distractions for drivers and pedestrians alike is increasing, with the Pokemon Go craze joining texting and social media in the battle for people's attention. Other communities are trying to deal with the issue in different ways, from road signs for pedestrians in South Korea, to pavement-level traffic lights in Germany.

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