Pedestrians and distractions: Get #TheLook this summer

As more people travel on foot around Melbourne during the Australian Open, the TAC is encouraging pedestrians to pay attention on the road.

We know using your phone while driving is distracting and dangerous but we give less thought to the hazards of walking and distraction. In 2015, 32 pedestrians lost their lives in Victoria, with nearly 200 pedestrians killed in the past five years. Worldwide, around 20% of people killed on the roads are pedestrians. The smartphone is now ubiquitous and with new apps and offerings to divert our attention every day, the risk they pose to people walking and crossing roads continues to grow.

The risks of being distracted as a pedestrian

Crossing a road with other traffic requires attention and judgement, yet many people multitask while walking and are distracted by their smartphones. A self-reported survey conducted by the Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety found about a third of 18 – 30-year-olds used their smartphones while crossing the road, many doing so daily. This is a worrying figure as it means almost one in three people in this age group have a high risk of being in a crash while crossing the road.

Several US studies of young adults, highlighted by World Health Organisation's manual on pedestrian safety, suggest people who are distracted by phone conversations, listening to music, texting or using the internet also take greater risks when crossing roads.

TAC Road Safety Project Manager Sam Buckis says, "People don't perceive the risk as being great, but as we can see from the number of people losing their lives, distraction is an increasing and concerning problem for pedestrians crossing roads in Victoria."

Get The Look

This month, the TAC is urging people to get The Look and be more alert when walking to avoid tragic consequences.

The campaign kicked off at the Australian Open with The Look Out, a pop-up catwalk featuring a zebra crossing down at Birrarung Marr. Throughout January The Look Out will show that the best look this summer is paying attention. The Look is particularly focused on engaging young people who attend the tennis via social media platforms and online. Partnering with the TAC, insta-famous stylist Lana Wilkinson launched the 'catwalk for a cause' on January 19. Curating 12 looks, Lana and the TAC showed guests how good you look when you go 'phoneless', pay attention and are aware of your surroundings. Check out the photos from the event on the TAC Facebook page.

Tennis fans can snap a selfie, with the help of phone concierges, of their phoneless look on the catwalk until January 31. Instagrammed shots tagged with #TheLook go into the draw to win tickets to the Men's and Women's Australian Open Finals. Fashion bloggers and influencers will also be roaming the Aus Open snapping tennis goers who have their phones down and heads up, paying attention.

The Look Out will be at the Australian Open Festival at Birrarung Marr from Tuesday 19th – Sunday 31st January.

Own it, Don't phone it

Tennis ace Sam Groth is The Look ambassador entreating people to 'own it, don't phone it': "People who have 'The Look' are connected to what's happening around them, and that's the hottest look on the street this summer," he says.

"Put your phone away and enjoy being present, whether it's courtside or if you're out and about on the streets of Melbourne."

When there is shared use of the roads by drivers, people walking and riding or cycling, there is a shared responsibility to enact safe road use on all sides. That's why safer people is one of the four pillars of Towards Zero. All of us can play an important part in protecting ourselves and others. VicRoads has web pages with tips on how to share the road with pedestriansand how pedestrians can cross the road safely.

"We want people to realise that the best look on the street is paying attention and that people should make the effort to put their phones away and engage with what's happening around them to avoid tragic accidents," says Mrs Buckis.

Safe places to cross

  • Whenever possible, cross at a pedestrian crossing, traffic signal or pedestrian refuge.
  • Make sure you have a clear view of approaching traffic, and where drivers can see you.
  • If you cannot cross the whole road in one attempt, wait on the pedestrian refuge or median strip.

Crossing the road at other places

  • Walk straight across the road – don't jay-walk.
  • Keep checking in both directions to make sure the way is clear.
  • Try not to cross the road from between parked cars or near trees and bushes as drivers may not see you.
  • Avoid crossing near a bend or crest in the road.
  • Give yourself a good chance to see vehicles coming from both directions.
  • Avoid crossing on roundabouts, particularly multi-lane roundabouts as they are very busy and complex and cars are not required to give way to you, unless there is a pedestrian crossing.
  • Find somewhere further away from the roundabout to safely cross the road.

For more about crossing the road safely visit the VicRoads website or watch the videos below.