Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Push to trial in-ground traffic lights in Adelaide CBD to keep distracted smartphone users safe

Celeste Villani, June 25, 2019 6:45PM The Advertiser

Print Article

The first set of in-ground traffic lights in a trial in Melbourne were placed on the corner of Little Collins and Swanston streets. Picture: TAC media_cameraThe first set of in-ground traffic lights in a trial in Melbourne were placed on the corner of Little Collins and Swanston streets. Picture: TAC

technology

Reading level: orange

Australian councils desperate to keep distracted phone users safe are trialling in-ground traffic lights around the country.

Adelaide is the latest capital city set to try the lights at pedestrian crossings to stop people accidentally walking into approaching traffic.

Melbourne and Sydney have already tried in-ground lights.

South Australia’s Adelaide City Council and the State Government are considering a trial of the red and green lights to improve pedestrian safety.

The council will vote on Tuesday night on Cr Rob Simms’ motion* about whether the in-ground lights could be tried in Adelaide.

“With the changes in technology and phones continuing to evolve and be more distracting, we are seeing that pedestrians are not as attentive as they could be on our roads,” Cr Simms said.

“That is very dangerous obviously and we have to do what we can to improve safety.

“And I think they would look visually attractive as well — an interesting way of lighting up the streets.”

He said it would also help pedestrians with vision impairments* cross the road.

Test Lights media_cameraTest lights at the intersection of Goulburn and Pitt streets, Sydney, which cost $124,000 to install. Picture: Richard Dobson

In 2016, the NSW Government held a $250,000, six-month trial of the lights at the intersection of Goulburn and Pitt and Dixon and Hay streets in Sydney.

After the trial, the government decided against permanently using the technology across the city.

“Given the substantial* cost of installing the lights, other methods of encouraging pedestrians to take extra care at intersections, like pavement markings or additional signage, might be more cost effective if shown to be beneficial*,” a Transport for NSW spokesman said at the time.

A UNSW Sydney report also found it was not an effective way of preventing accidents.

Lights at the intersection of Goulburn and Pitt streets, Sydney. Picture: Richard Dobson media_cameraLights at the intersection of Goulburn and Pitt streets, Sydney. Picture: Richard Dobson

The Sydney in-ground lights were installed after a similar trial in the German city of Augsburg. That city put in-ground lights at two tram stops after a 15-year-old girl was killed when she walked onto the tracks while looking at her smartphone. The lights were not installed more widely in Augsburg after the trial.

In Melbourne, four sets of flashing, tactile* markers were installed at the corner of Swanston and Little Collins streets in March 2017 at a cost of about $120,000.

If Cr Simms’ motion is carried* in Adelaide, a report with the outcome of the discussions would be presented to the council by December 2020.

The report would include costs and potential locations.

An Adelaide trial has been backed by the RAA’s* traffic engineer Matthew Vertudaches who said it could be a step towards improved pedestrian safety.

“Although this type of pedestrian crossing cannot protect against poor decision making, or deter* those who intentionally* break the rules, it does add an extra visual alert to pedestrians distracted by mobile phones,” Mr Vertudaches said.

“If the technology succeeds in reducing the number of pedestrians taking risks when crossing roads, then this can only be positive for pedestrian safety.”

The State Government has been contacted for comment.

Market St, Sydney, looking east at 5.15pm on January 23, 1920, before traffic lights were used in Australia. The first traffic lights media_cameraMarket St, Sydney at 5.15pm on January 23, 1920. The first Australian traffic lights were installed at the intersection of Kent and Market streets, Sydney, in October 1933. Until then, policemen controlled traffic with hand gestures. Picture: NSW State Archives and Records

GLOSSARY

  • motion: a suggestion in a meeting to be voted on
  • impairments: limitations
  • substantial: significant size or worth
  • beneficial: has benefits
  • tactile: can feel it
  • carried: was voted for by most people
  • RAA: Royal Automobile Association of South Australia
  • deter: put off
  • intentionally: on purpose

EXTRA READING

Compulsive phone use affects wellbeing

How technology changed our lives

Green man or green woman for crossing job?

Calls to block phones in cars to cut road toll

QUICK QUIZ

  1. Apart from phone users, who else could the in-ground lights help?
  2. How much did the Sydney trial cost?
  3. What did the UNSW study find?
  4. What is Matthew Vertudaches’ job?
  5. When and where were Australia’s first traffic lights installed?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Alert Lights
Write a list of pros (advantages) and cons (disadvantages) in a table about installing flashing lights in the ground at pedestrian crossings. Think of your own ideas as well as using the points from the article from the places where this scheme has already been trialled.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Work with a partner and brainstorm a list of other innovative ideas to alert people to traffic before crossing the road if they are distracted by smartphones or something else. Share your ideas with your classmates.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social

VCOP ACTIVITY
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think in-ground traffic lights are a good idea? Do you think they will help keep phone users safe? Would you be happy if your council spent money on this?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in technology