City in Japan proposes new law banning phone use while walking

Matt Mathers
Officials in Japan say increased mobile phone use while walking is causing a rise in accidents: AFP via Getty Images

Pedestrians could be banned from looking at their phones while walking under new laws being proposed by a city in Japan.

Politicians in Yamato, about 25 miles southwest of Tokyo, have put forward a bill that could make it illegal for people to gaze at their devices while walking.

The bill was submitted to the city’s assembly on 1 June. If passed, the law would come into effect from 1 July.

Officials said that people were unlikely to be punished for flouting the proposed new measures.

Instead, the law has been designed to keep pedestrians safe when crossing roads, officials added.

People are being encouraged to use their devices while standing in a spot where they are unlikely to pose a hindrance to others passing by.

Yamato officials said that increasing smartphone use in the city and across Japan more broadly has led to rising numbers of road traffic accidents.

In 2014, Japanese telecoms firm NTT Docomo ran a computer simulation of what might occur if 1,500 people used the busy Shibuya pedestrian crossing in Tokyo while all looking at their smartphones.

Results from the study showed that around 66 per cent of people would not make it to the other side without incident.

The simulation predicted that there would be 446 collisions, with 103 people getting knocked down while 21 others dropped their phones.

A separate 2020 study by researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada published in the BMJ journal suggested that “distraction injuries” are now a significant problem due to smartphone use.

Lead author Dr Sarah Simmons wrote: “Given the ubiquity of smartphones, social media, apps, digital video and streaming music, which has infiltrated most aspects of daily life, distracted walking and street crossing will be a road safety issue for the foreseeable future.”

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