Attention smombies! Campaign launched as quarter of children crossing road distracted by phones | Bolt Burdon Kemp Attention smombies! Campaign launched as quarter of children crossing road distracted by phones | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Attention smombies! Campaign launched as quarter of children crossing road distracted by phones

Are you and your children aware of the dangers of crossing the road while looking down at your phones? First News, the newspaper for young people, has launched the Look Up! campaign to raise awareness about this issue after worrying statistics showed child pedestrians were regularly getting distracted by their screens. At this time of year, with these dark mornings and evenings, children walking to and from school are particularly at risk, and we have some tips to keep them safe.

Shocking statistics

Pedestrians under the age of 16 are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users, accounting for most child casualties across all road user types. Casualty statistics involving pedestrians under the age of 16 are shocking.

A total of 1,377 child pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in the 12 months to June 2023, according to provisional Government figures released in November 2023. That’s an average of a classroom of 35 children for every school week of the year.

The majority (71%) of these incidents occur between 8am and 8.59am and 3pm and 6.59pm, the time when children are walking to and from school, while 78% of child pedestrians involved in accidents did not look where they were going properly.

Mobile phone distractions

Mobile phones are a growing distraction for pedestrians worldwide. The term “smartphone zombie” or “smombie”, first coined in Germany in 2015, describes a person walking around unaware of his or her surroundings entirely absorbed in their smart phone. While the problem has increased exponentially since then, children are disproportionately affected by mobile phone distractions.

Research conducted by Childwise found 53% of children in the UK own a mobile phone by the age of seven. Even more concerning is the fact that research by AXA in 2021 found 21% of 11-year-olds and 25% of 12-year-olds admit to being distracted by a screen while crossing a road.

In response to these issues, First News has called for all schools across the UK to remind children of the dangers of crossing the road while distracted.

Protecting children and creating safer roads

The best way to protect children is to ensure they are aware of the dangers. Creating road safety awareness from a young age is crucial for improving the safety of our roads for everyone. First News has created a free Look Up! assembly pack for every school, to remind children to put down their phones.

Here are top tips to encourage safer road behaviour:

  • Encourage children to avoid using their phones while walking along roads.
  • Advise children to stop in a safe area, away from the road, if they need to use their phones.
  • Recommend that children do not use noise-cancelling headphones when walking along roads, as they prevent hearing potential dangers.
  • Ensure children are wearing bright and colourful clothing, especially in the autumn and winter months, to make them more visible to other road users.

Pedestrian Responsibility

All pedestrians, including children, must take reasonable care for their own safety. At the same time, the court expects car drivers to be reasonably careful, and armed with common sense and experience of the way pedestrians, particularly children, are likely to behave. A motorist driving close to children on the pavement should keep them under close observation and ensure that those children are aware of the car’s presence before passing them, reducing speed, or sounding the horn.

If a car driver is at fault for hitting a pedestrian, but the pedestrian has failed to take reasonable care for their own safety, for example by looking down at their phone and not where they are going, and this contributed to the collision, compensation for their injuries will be reduced in proportion to their level of blameworthiness. This is known as contributory negligence.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we have many years of experience in fighting claims for compensation for children who have suffered serious injuries, including severe brain injuries, and winning substantial compensation, even though the child was partly at fault.

The solicitors in our dedicated child brain injury team have the tools and expertise to support these children and their families and, working with experts to understand their unique needs, take a tailored approach to each child.

Bolt Burdon Kemp supporting road safety awareness

We are also passionate about road safety awareness, collaborating with and supporting road safety charities, such as Brake | The Road Safety Charity, to raise awareness and support victims of road traffic collisions.

For this reason, we’d encourage parents to ask schools to join the First News campaign and download the Look up! assembly pack, which is available here. Together, let’s make our roads safer for everyone.

If you think you or your child may have a claim for compensation due to a road traffic collision, please get in touch with us.

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