(Photo: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)
Even if you've never done it yourself, you've almost certainly seen people walking around town with their eyes glued to their cell phone screens when they should probably be looking where they're going. It's the sort of potentially dangerous but totally compulsive habit that many smartphone addicts just can't help getting sucked into, whether they're reading their emails or scrolling through social media.
A new function from Japanese mobile provider NTT Docomo might put at least a small dent in the problem. Starting today, the company is rolling out a free "safety mode" for its Android-based phones which will detect whether the user is walking, and put up the following error message if they try to use the phone, translated: "Using your smartphone while walking is dangerous. The phone senses you are walking. Please stop."
(Photo: NTT Docomo)
A press release from the company says the motion sensor can be set to three different sensitivity levels, and can only be deactivated by holding your finger against a "close" button for 10 seconds or holding the power button for 5 seconds (or, of course, you can just stop walking).
According to the Toronto Star, no targeted studies of distracted walking have been conducted in Canada, although a study by U.S. researchers found that at least 1,506 emergency room visits in the country were due to walking and texting. And a review of pedestrian deaths in Ontario by the province's chief coroner found that in 2010, about 20 per cent of pedestrian deaths were associated with some form of distraction, such as a mobile device.
Of course, Docomo's safety mode feature is entirely optional, so the only users who are likely to use it are those with the self-awareness to know they have a problem. But hey, it's a start. And it just might prevent this kind of thing: