Texting and walking is a huge risk

Ford has commissioned a survey of 10,000 people across Europe to measure the issue of distracted pedestrians – including those crossing the road where there is no official crossing.

According to official data, more than 85,000 pedestrians lost their lives on European roads between 2003 and 2013, which recognises car crashes are the leading cause of death in 18 to 24-year-olds.

Most smartphone users surveyed (57 per cent) admitted using their devices when crossing the road, even when there is no formal crossing, and nearly half (47 per cent) talk on the phone. Those aged 18-24 years old were most likely to have used mobile devices or phones (86 per cent), talked on the phone (68 per cent), listened to music (62 per cent), texted (34 per cent), and had an accident or near miss (22 per cent), while crossing the street.

Ford is highlighting the risks posed by distracted pedestrians as part of Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL). The award-winning novice driver programme has provided training for more than half a million people globally through free hands‑on and online education since its launch in the U.S. 11 years ago. Brought to Europe in 2013, Ford has now introduced DSFL training in the UK, and across Europe, working together with leading safety organisations. Training also highlights the risks of drink-driving and using social media while driving. DSFL takes place in the UK just ahead of National Road Safety week, at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre, from 20-22 November.

‘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, Ford DSFL. “Our training makes young people more aware of their surroundings both as a driver and a passenger, so hazards can be anticipated earlier.’

Overall, 32 per cent of pedestrians admitted listening to music, 14 per cent text, 9 per cent browse the internet, 7 per cent use social media, and 3 per cent play games or watch TV/videos while crossing roads. Most admitted the behaviour was dangerous, and 60 per cent said they felt safer knowing that autonomous vehicles, or vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous technologies, could intervene to prevent or mitigate an accident if the driver did not respond to warnings.

Ford recently introduced a new pedestrian detection technology that could assist the driver in reducing the severity of accidents or help drivers avoid them altogether. Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, available on the all-new Galaxy, Mondeo, and S-MAX models, 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 system processes information collected from a windshield-mounted camera, and a radar located in the bumper, and checks it against a database of ‘pedestrian shapes’ to distinguish people from typical roadside scenery and objects. While the new system may be especially helpful in unexpected situations, it does not replace the driver and has limitations including night-time, low and harsh lighting conditions, certain weather conditions, and vehicles moving in a different direction.

Official data obtained by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), Britain’s biggest independent road safety charity, reveals that 23 per cent 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.

‘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, IAM. ‘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.’