Pedestrians using mobile phones in danger of falling into ‘zombie trance’

Poll reveals 42% in favour of on-the-spot fines to deter ‘reckless’ jaywalkers

Pedestrians using their mobile phones are in danger of falling into a “zombie trance” while crossing the road, according to a new poll carried out by a car insurance company.

The online survey by AA Motor Insurance suggests two thirds of people in Ireland are in favour of on-the-spot fines to deter "reckless" jaywalkers from crossing busy roads.

Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs for AA Ireland, says that "theoretically" the State already has a 'jay-walking' law in place and that pedestrians within 50 metres of a pedestrian crossing must use it to cross the road.

“In reality anyone who has ever been a pedestrian in an Irish town will tell you that the rules are completely ignored,” said Mr Faughnan.


“Tourists often think we are insane and they may be right as our behaviour crossing road is dangerous.”

A total of 42 per cent of people in the online survey said they agreed completely that fines should be applicable to any road users who fail to observe the law and who generally behave without due care and consideration.

A quarter said they agreed “somewhat”, while 10 per cent were “neutral”. A further 11 per cent disagreed “somewhat” and 12 per cent disagreed “completely”.

The survey was based on 5,845 responses gathered in an online poll on March 7th.

One particular pedestrian observed during AA’s own study fell so deeply into a “zombie trance” while using his mobile phone that he didn’t even notice the bus that was forced to screech to a halt so as to avoid hitting him as he crossed the road.

AA Motor Insurance says “pedestrian inattention” claims are on the rise and have become a common occurrence in recent years due to the “smart phone oblivion” that large numbers of pedestrians suffer from.

Mr Faughnan says motor insurance claims increasingly include notes such as ‘man on phone stepped out in front of me’ or ‘had to swerve to avoid cyclist with headphones’.

“While these kinds of incidents have become the norm, it doesn’t mean we should be accepting of them,” said Mr Faughnan.

“In other countries pedestrian crossing are respected and used correctly. It is achievable and we should be challenging the new status quo that has developed here.”

Many cities around the world already impose harsh fines on jaywalkers. In Sydney a pedestrian can be fined €45, in Poland the fine is €120 and in New York jaywalkers can be fined anywhere between €29-€183. Other cities which impose fines include Toronto, Singapore, Malaga and Beijing.

Road Safety Authority figures for 2013 reveal a slight increase in pedestrian fatalities on Irish roads in comparison to the previous year. Some 31 pedestrians died on the roads compared to 29 in 2012.

A third of these incidents occurred when a pedestrian was crossing a road, while more than half happened after dark. AA continues to recommend that pedestrians wear reflective clothing “where possible”.

“As long as there are fatalities on our roads we need to keep looking at what else we can do to make them safer for everyone who uses them,” said Mr Faughnan.

“I think there’s a big piece of work that needs to be done around policing the use of mobile phones while driving and keeping that momentum up.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast