TV3's current affairs/magazine program Story tonight aired yet another piece about pedestrians walking around distracted by mobile phones. Leaving aside the fact that someone walking around in a furry suit is hardly a reason for attention in Wellington, once again the focus was on the wrong side of the equation.
I typically walk around Wellington City 5 days a week and when I do, I'm often "plugged in" to a podcast or sometimes music, through a set of in-ear earbuds. Occasionally I will try to do something on my phone, or my watch, but I am always acutely aware that my attention is distracted and I only do it when and where it makes reasonable sense. This is one of the reasons I love walking along the waterfront – no dangerous traffic!
Earbuds are not enough to block out all noise. I can hear most cars, all sirens, all buses (noisy, dirty things!) and many other things besides. But even if noise is blocked, I still have my eyes, and for almost all occasions they are enough. I always look several times in each direction before crossing a road. DOESN'T EVERYONE?
That's the real problem. People do not pay attention to their surroundings. And guess what. It doesn't take a mobile phone to distract them. I see people walking along reading hard cover books! Yes, many times! I see people walking along talking to a friend who is beside them and they look directly at the friend, not where they're going. Heck, I even see some people off in a day dream with no form of distraction. I've seen people walk across busy streets without looking in any direction other than straight ahead. In some cases cars have come close to hitting them and they have still been unaware, or uncaring, even with zero distracting devices.
Banning looking at mobile phones or fining people for doing so is utterly ridiculous and that it has even been suggested is just another step towards the all controlling state, that decides it must legislate protection for people from themselves.
The answer to the problem is personal responsibility, which is something I was taught when I was growing up. The thing we need to figure out is how to wake people up. And if you think it's not a big deal – just imagine this attitude applied behind the wheel of a car.
Actually, no need to imagine.
Banner image by Urban Muser