“Many PEDESTRIAN use cell phones while crossing without looking”: should this “dangerous” behavior be punished?

Danièle, who contacted us via our orange Alert button, was annoyed by the pedestrian behavior that often occurs on the road. According to him, using a smartphone when crossing at a pedestrian crossing should be punished. Due to their daze, some are not even aware that the light is already red and thereby getting themselves into serious traffic accidents.

Every day, drivers are fined for using their cell phones while driving. According to the latest data from Vias, one in 50 drivers use them GSM or other electronic devices without a handsfree kit while driving.

VSI have to brake before brutally.

Faced with this, Danièle, 66, contacted us via the orange Tell us button. he wondered: “Many pedestrians use their cell phones when crossing without seeing a car passing by. Why not ‘punish’ them too?”. This pensioner, who lives in Gozée (Thuin, Hainaut province) reported having been surprised by a pedestrian crossing “without even looking. “VSI’ve had to brake suddenly because a pedestrian was crossing without looking with a cell phone in hand. Pedestrians sometimes think they are the kings of traffic.” he exclaimed.

Behavior that is not prohibited by the Highway Code

According to a study reported in Digital 2021 Global Overview Report, almost 9 out of 10 Belgians own a smartphone. Belgians pass on maverage 2h05 connected per day.

Organizing checks at all pedestrian crossings seems complicated.

Specifically, for pedestrians, using a cell phone when crossing a pedestrian crossing is not prohibited by the Highway Regulations. “We could ban it in the Highway Code like we do for drivers, but it would be very difficult to enforce it with penalties. This is really a violation to be found at flagrante delicto. So that means we have to regulate checks at all pedestrian crossings, which seems complicated.” react Belinda Demattia, spokesperson Walloon Road Safety Agency (AWSR).

According to a survey conducted by the road safety agency (on a sample of 1,000 people questioned), at least one in two Walloons admits occasionally crossing the street while looking at their phone, most often to view messages or surf the web. According to this same survey, youth is the main concern. 88% of people who say crossing a pedestrian crossing using their mobile phone are under 35 years of age. And vice versa, 55% of people who have never done it are over 54 years old.

This is behavior that can lead to other violations.

Although this behavior is not prohibited by the Highway Code, it can still be penalized in certain cases, as Mathieu Vanvarenbergh, head of the traffic department of the Woluwé Saint-Pierre Police Zone, reminds us. “There are no articles regulated in the toll road law. However, it is behavior that can lead to other violations. For example, someone who uses his cell phone while crossing at a red light. In this case, the offense is to cross at a red light.” he explained. In the same way, a pedestrian who is distracted by his cell phone can stray from his trajectory and thus end up on the side of the road instead of the sidewalk. And that is a clear violation of the Highway Code.

In the Woluwé-Saint-Pierre police zone, 15% of those injured in traffic accidents are pedestrians. And in concrete terms, crossing a pedestrian crossing while being distracted by your phone presents a real risk. This can disrupt the decision-making process that takes place when crossing, thus potentially increasing the risk of an accident.

An distracted pedestrian may not realize that the light is red and thus cross without realizing the risk he is running. “We noticed that people doing these crossings are slower. They also cross more often when vehicles are approaching, putting themselves in greater danger. The risk is getting into an accident with a car which will be much more serious for pedestrians”highlighted Belinda Dematsia.

Note that the number of accidents involving pedestrians increases between October and March. This can be explained in particular by the lack of visibility, low light and longer nights. As AWSR reminds us, pedestrians’ chances of survival in a vehicle crash vary greatly depending on the speed of impact:

  • At a speed of 30 km/h, the risk of pedestrian death is 2%
  • At 50 km/h, 10%
  • At 70 km/h, 40%
  • Above 80 km/h, the impact is almost always fatal

Both the police and the Walloon road safety agency advocate prevention. The goal is for every road user to become aware of the danger he faces if he behaves dangerously. “We try to encourage positive behavior in pedestrians through training in schools, distribution of leaflets”, enlighten police officer Mathieu Vanvarenbergh.

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