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Red alert… smart crossing spots the phone-using peril

Straight and arrow: LED lights illuminate the road when cameras detect someone stepping out without warning PICTURE: PA

THEY’RE the bane of motorists’ lives — and cause potentially dangerous incidents each day.

Now a ‘smart’ crossing has been devised to warn drivers of mobile phone-using pedestrians stepping out unexpectedly in front of them.

Using LED lights, the surface of the crossing illuminates based on movements detected by cameras. A thick red line lights up when someone walks out without warning.

Other features see the crossing becoming wider when there are lots of people waiting to use it, and extra warnings to cyclists of pedestrians hidden by high-sided vehicles. A prototype was unveiled near Mitcham, south London, developed by tech firm Umbrellium with insurance company Direct Line.

Street wise: Dynamic road and pavement patterns respond in real time to cyclists and pedestrians on phones

Usman Haque, from Umbrellium, said: ‘Pedestrian crossings are about 50 or 60 years old. We’re trying to update the design with a crossing that deals with the fact that people are on mobile phones and might not be looking up.’ It performs ‘like a traditional crossing that responds in real time’, he added. Although no cost analysis has been carried out it can be ‘built and deployed now’.

Jason Wakeford, of road safety charity Brake, said: ‘We hope smart crossings will be rolled out in towns and cities.’ Around 20 potentially dangerous incidents occur each day at crossings in the UK, according to road safety research.