New campaign warns of the danger of young ‘smartphone zombies’ crossing roads while distracted

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A class size of child pedestrians are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads every week, official figures show. Safety experts are increasingly concerned about the rise of ‘smombies’ - smartphone zombies - distracted by their phone screens while navigating busy streets.

Children’s newspaper First News is warning young people about the dangers of crossing the road while using their mobile phones.

A class size of child pedestrians are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads every week, official figures show.

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Road safety organisations are increasingly concerned about the rise of ‘smombies’ - smartphone zombies - distracted by their phone screens while walking.

Now First News, supported by NationalWorld, has begun a campaign called Look Up! to warn of the dangers.

It is asking children to design posters which will be sent to all primary and secondary schools nationwide as part of a pack of resources.

All schools will be asked to hold an assembly in the summer or autumn term warning children of the dangers of mobile phone distraction while navigating roads.

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Nicky Cox, editor in chief of First News, said: “For many years it has been clear that there is a link between pedestrians being distracted by mobile phones and road collisions.

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“Data shows children travelling to, and from, school are at most risk.

“With 2.6 million children reading First News each week, we felt we had a real responsibility to warn them of the dangers and urge them to Look Up!”

A study by the University of Lincoln published in 2019 found that mobile phones compromise the safety of school-age pedestrians.

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Researchers had observed pupils outside a secondary school in the north of England over a four-week period.

They were watching to see if the pupils looked, or failed to look, left and right before crossing the road, whether they crossed when the pedestrian light was on red or green and whether they crossed on the crossing.

They found that nearly a third (31%) of road crossings were made by pupils with a phone or other device and that they looked less frequently when they had them.


Tim Robinson, managing editor of NationalWorld publishers JPIMedia, said: “It’s terrifying how many children are killed or injured on the roads and we all need to do what we can to stop this.

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“The First News Look Up campaign is a really important step to educate children and their parents about the dangers of using a mobile phone while walking.

“We’re really committed to this partnership with First News and want to do everything to help spread the word to the kids of Britain.”

Global non-profit organisation Safe Kids Worldwide is backing the call.

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A spokesperson said: “Every hour of every day, a teen is hit or killed while walking.

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“Texting and walking can be fatal. That’s why we’re asking everyone to put phones down when crossing the street.”

The Covid-19 lockdown and school closures mean official road safety figures for 2020 were affected that year.

But, in 2019, 6,200 pedestrians were killed or had life-changing injuries on Britain’s roads. More than one in five of those people (1,415) were aged 17 or under – that’s around a whole class of schoolchildren every week.

Accident data shows those aged 11 to 14 are the most likely to be killed or badly hurt – around 50 every month.

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Accidents peak at 8am to 9am and again from 3pm to 4pm, when young people are making the journey to and from school.

The figures show that children aged 11 and 12 are the most at risk of serious accidents while walking on Britain’s streets.

A total of 801 11-year-old pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in the past five years - double the number of ten-year-olds.

This is the age most children begin to travel on their own to and from school for the first time.

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It is also the age at which nearly all children have a smartphone of their own.

Two-thirds of children aged nine to 10 now own a mobile phone, research by CHILDWISE shows. Nearly all children of secondary school age have their own phone.

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