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Swiss politicians against pedestrians on phone

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Swiss politicians against pedestrians on phone
Texting in the street is a dangerous distraction, feel politicians. Photo: Matthew Kenwrick
10:44 CET+01:00
The days of whatsapping while walking could be over in Switzerland if some politicians get their way. Members of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) are calling for people who walk about the streets with their eyes on their smartphones to be punished, saying they are a danger to themselves and others.

Speaking to newspaper 20 Minuten on Thursday, SVP councillor Walter Wobmann said: “We must punish those who are buried in their mobiles and represent a danger to others.”

Believing that pedestrians are distracted by their smartphones and therefore not paying attention to the traffic, he added: “Just as we do for car drivers, the police should have the power to show there are consequences.”   

His UDC colleague Natalie Rickli agrees.

“We can’t punish those who use their phones behind the wheel while inattentive pedestrians have nothing to fear,” she said.

“It doesn’t require a ban, just that people take more responsibility,” she added to 20 Minuten.

As part of this, Rickli wants Switzerland to reintroduce an old law requiring people crossing the road to make their intention clear to drivers through a simple hand signal.

Abolished in 1994, the former law has frequently cropped up on the political agenda over the years, particularly after serious accidents.

But groups including the Swiss Touring Club (TCS) and Pedestrian Mobility Switzerland disagree with any imposition on pedestrians.

“It is in the interest of the pedestrian to focus on the traffic. If not it’s him who will come off worse,” said Dominik Bucheli of Pedestrian Mobility Switzerland.

Rather than punishing people, it would be better to focus on preventing the 2,250 accidents involving pedestrians each year, he said.

Figures released last week by the Swiss accident prevention bureau (BFU) revealed that a pedestrian dies on average every week from motor vehicle accidents in Switzerland, while two are seriously injured every day.

However, police are also sceptical about the idea of stricter controls on mobile phone use, or even a ban.

Marco Cortesi, spokesperson for Zurich city police, told the paper that while it’s true that some pedestrians are less attentive while on the phone, targeted controls are not the answer.

“We simply call on people to use common sense,” he said.

Police have little recourse against mobile-addicted pedestrians at present – unless they are distracted by their phone on a pedestrian crossing.

The law clearly states that, although pedestrians have right of way on the yellow striped crossings,  they should take care when doing so and should not “cause surprise to other road users”.

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