More than a third of pedestrians have been dubbed “smartphone zombies” after researchers spotted them crossing Sydney’s busiest streets while distracted by their electronic gadgets.

Researchers for the NRMA monitored more than 26,000 people as they crossed three CBD intersections and one in Parramatta in April and May.

They found 36 per cent of people crossed the road while using their smartphone or headphones, 7.5 per cent crossed illegally and 3.4 per cent crossed illegally while using their devices.

About 17 per cent of people who die on NSW roads are pedestrians and more than 1500 are hit by vehicles each year.

Last year 67 pedestrians died on the state’s roads, the NRMA said.

“Statistics already show that the elderly, very young and those who have been drinking are already at risk when crossing the road, so adding smombies to the list only further enhances the need to crack down on this behaviour,” NRMA road safety expert Dimitra Vlahomitros said in a statement on Thursday.

“Distracted walking is a form of inattentional blindness and when you undertake this behaviour you are effectively playing chicken with fast-moving traffic.”


The Look Up report recommended more refuge islands, countdown timers on crossings, overpasses and underpasses for pedestrians and other measures to keep walkers safe.

Researchers also want “green on green” traffic signals removed because they pose a particular risk of pedestrians being hit by vehicles.

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