Tel Aviv Installs 'Zombie Lights' for Smartphone-addicted Pedestrians

The lights aim to minimize accidents between vehicles and inattentive pedestrians at crosswalks

Pedestrians stand in front of embedded LED stoplights at a crosswalk in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 13, 2019.
Pedestrians stand in front of embedded LED stoplights at a crosswalk in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 13, 2019. Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Taking a small step toward protecting the lives of “smartphone zombies,” the Tel Aviv Municipality has installed special LED sidewalk lights at a busy crosswalk to alert distracted pedestrians staring at their phones when they can walk and when they should stop.

Tomer Dror, head of the traffic management division at the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, said the “zombie traffic lights” aim to minimize accidents between vehicles and inattentive pedestrians at crosswalks.

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“We cannot force them to take their eyes out of the smartphone and into the road. We need to find ways to put the road into their eyes,” he said.

The striped lights turn green when it is safe to walk, and red when pedestrians should halt.

For now, the pilot program is limited to a single intersection in central Tel Aviv, but the municipality says it will expand the zombie lights if they prove effective. Similar systems have already been used in Australia, Singapore and the Netherlands.

So far, smartphone-addicted residents seem to be welcoming the lights.

“In my opinion, it’s something amazing,” said Tel Aviv resident Shai Levi. “As someone who is addicted to his phone and is all day long with his head glued on the screen, I think that it can without any hesitation, reduce the number of accidents.”

Haley Danino, another pedestrian, also called it a good idea that will save lives. “But it’s a bit sad, no?” she said. “We all look down all the time.”

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