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We've all seen them; the person walking along the pavement, eyes down, concentrated on a small screen in front of them, completely oblivious to all around them as they negotiate the Facebook/Twitter/Text virtual minefield in front of them rather than the paving stones/lamp posts/pedestrians reality. And then they step into the road, oblivious to any danger, and reliant on the reactions and anticipation powers of car drivers.   

And therein lies the problem. 

As car drivers, we have to not only look out for and anticipate the actions of other drivers on the road, but also those of pedestrians of all ages - and with a new Ford survey of 10,000 Europeans finding that 18 to 24-year-olds were most likely to use mobile devices or phones, talk on the phone, or listen to music while crossing streets, the likelihood of a sudden arrival on a road is increased, often with disastrous effects.

The Research Results

To look at the problem of too many people continuing to use their phones and mobile devices even while crossing busy roads, Ford commissioned a survey of 10,000 people across Europe to investigate the issue of distracted pedestrians – including those crossing the road where there is no official crossing.  

Starting with official data that stated that more than 85,000 pedestrians lost their lives on European roads between 2003 and 2013**, and statistics where the leading cause of death in 18 to 24-year-olds is car crashes, they asked the questions of smartphone users in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the UK. 

  • 57% of smartphone users surveyed admitted using their devices when crossing the road, even when there is no formal crossing
  • 47% admitted to talking on the phone at that time

The age group most likely to have used mobile devices or phones were the 18-24 year-olds (86%) of whom

  • 68% talked on the phone
  • 62% listened to music 
  • 34% were texting

and 22% admitted to having had an accident or a near miss while crossing the street whilst on the phone in some capacity!

Ford Mondeo Pedestrian Detection Technology testing“It’s one thing to walk along the pavement with headphones on listening to music, but stepping into a road while texting, playing a game or browsing online is extremely dangerous,” said Jim Graham, manager of award-winning novice driver programme, Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL). “Our training makes young people more aware of their surroundings both as a driver and a passenger, so hazards can be anticipated earlier.”

But it wasn't just that age group that pose a threat to the drivers (and themselves.) Overall, 32% of pedestrians admitted listening to music, 14% to texting, 9% to browsing the internet, 7% to using social media, and 3% to playing games or watching TV and/or videos while crossing roads. Most of them admitted that their behaviour was dangerous, and 60% of them said they felt safer knowing that autonomous vehicles, or vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous technology, could intervene to prevent or prevent an accident if the driver did not respond to warnings.

What Ford have done

So it is good to know that Ford recently introduced a new pedestrian detection technology on the all-new GalaxyMondeo, and S-MAX models that could assist the driver in reducing the severity of accidents or help drivers avoid them altogether. 

Ford Mondeo Pedestrian Detection Technology in actionPre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection can, under certain conditions,  detect people in the road ahead, or who could cross the vehicle’s path, and can automatically apply the brakes if the driver does not respond to warnings. The technology works by processing information that it collects from a windshield-mounted camera and a radar located in the bumper, and checking it against a database of “pedestrian shapes” to distinguish people from typical roadside scenery and objects. (It should be noted, however, that the new technology does NOT replace driver reaction and attention, and has limitations when used at night-time, in low and harsh lighting conditions, in certain weather conditions, and with vehicles moving in a different direction.

“Pedestrian fatalities are rising faster than any other group right now so it is vital that drivers are more sympathetic and aware of pedestrians when they make their journeys,” said Sarah Sillars, chief executive officer of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), whilst revealing that 23% of vehicle accidents involving a pedestrian injury in the U.K. in 2013 occurred in circumstances where the pedestrian failed to look properly, was careless or reckless, or in a hurry. “There is no need to blame any party when it comes to how to reduce the numbers of people killed and injured on our roads – all road users need to look out for each other and ensure we minimise the impact of our own and others’ unpredictable behaviour.”

So, remember that it is not just you, the driver, who has to remember when and when not to use mobile phones and the like. It is pedestrians too. But it is down to the driver to look out for and anticipate any likely collision from a phone user - on and off the road.