Pedestrians Urged to Not Let Distraction Get in the Way

5 March 2009

A pedestrian safety campaign - showing how easy it is to be distracted into finding yourself in an unsafe situation - will be launched on Monday by Wellington City Council.

The Council's Transport Safety Coordinator Michelle Stevenson says the high number of accidents involving pedestrians over the last few years - some of which proved fatal - prompted a campaign highlighting some of the poor habits people can get into while walking from A to B.

"It may seem to some that we are stating the obvious," says Michelle. "However, while the vast majority of Wellingtonians know to look left and right before crossing the road, and all those things that we learned in school, many people are easily distracted by the increasing use of mobile phones and personal music devices.

"Another common distraction is when two people are engrossed in a conversation while walking and their awareness of their surroundings has greatly decreased. Put it this way - how many times have you been walking along with someone who you have had to stop from crossing the road at the last second?"

The campaign involves radio advertising and street theatre by the Improvisers over a period of three months. Michelle says the Improvisers will congratulate people who cross the road correctly, such as paying attention and being aware of what they're doing. They will also gently chastise those who don't - for example, being absorbed in a telephone conversation while crossing the road and clearly being distracted. The Improvisers will, of course, be careful not to distract anyone crossing the road while they're doing this.

"It will be done in a very light-hearted fashion. While they'll be giving pedestrians feedback on their road-crossing abilities, it will be done theatrically with both speech and mime. We would rather make the awareness campaign a fun experience for Wellingtonians than a finger-wagging exercise."

From 2004 - 2008, 417 pedestrians were injured on Wellington City roads. Of these, 176 pedestrians (42%) were injured in the CBD, which is why the Improvisers will be mostly stationed in central locations such as Lambton Quay and Courtenay Place. Of the 417 incidents, there were four deaths, 95 serious injuries and 345 minor injuries.