While the world struggles to combat the coronavirus, Japan has managed to eliminate a social menace: using your phone while walking.
The city assembly of Yamato, a suburb of Tokyo, has passed a peculiar new law: Pedestrians are no longer allowed to use their mobile phones while walking.
While it might be a dangerous habit pervasive in societies most everywhere, it rarely catches the eye of the law. The city, however, wants to treat smartphone use as a public health hazard, Agence France-Presse reports. As strange as it sounds, the ban is reportedly popular among Yamato’s 240,000 residents and its success is attested by eye-witness reports that very few people are breaching the new rule.
“The number of people using smartphones has rapidly increased and so have the number of accidents” in the densely populated suburb, city official Masaaki Yasumi told AFP. “We want to prevent that.”
If you were to arrive at Yamato City station now, you would be greeted with banners announcing the new prohibition applicable to those walking through the neighbourhood’s public roads, squares, and parks. If that doesn’t catch your attention, a recorded voice broadcasts a warning: “Using smartphones while walking is banned. Please operate your smartphones after you stop walking.”
For the time being, however, the warning is empty—there is no punishment for not adhering to the new ban.
“We hope the ban will raise more awareness about the dangers,” said Yasumi.
In 2014, research by Japanese mobile giant NTT Docomo found that pedestrians lost 95% of their field of vision while staring down at a smartphone.
The company ran a computer simulation to predict what would happen if 1,500 people traversed Shibuya crossing—Tokyo’s world-famous crossing (and the busiest in the world)—while all simultaneously looking at their smartphones.
The results showed that two-thirds would not make it to their intended destination without incident, with 446 person-to-person collisions, 103 people being knocked down and 21 dropping their phones.
The number of accidents between people using phones while riding a bicycle and pedestrians is also increasing in Japan. In some cases, victims’ families have demanded up to 100 million yen (almost a million and a half in Australian dollars) in compensation.