Drivers warned to watch out for 'podestrians'

Motorists face another potential hazard on the roads with the rise of the ‘podestrian’ says Swinton, a UK car insurer.

‘Podestrians’ are people who listen to mp3 music players while walking - but can’t hear approaching traffic due to the volume level or because their headphones ‘cancel out’ background noise. In many accounts of minor accidents on insurance claim forms, Swinton Insurance has seen a significant increase in drivers citing such individuals as having been a factor in the incident.

According to Swinton’s data the most common scenario involves a ‘podestrian’ stepping into the road without looking properly and failing to hear an oncoming car. This often forces the approaching driver to brake suddenly and subsequently get shunted by the car behind.

The problem of music players masking the noise of cars can often be compounded by the simultaneous use of mobile phones. Text messaging on the move means many pedestrians are not looking at what’s straight ahead or checking to their left and right. When this activity is combined with a lack of audible awareness, a ‘podestrian’ is even more oblivious to oncoming traffic.

Steve Chelton, Insurer Development Manager, for Swinton Insurance said: “People have enjoyed listening to music on foot ever since the first Walkmans were introduced in the late 1970s, but 30 years on there seems to be a rising number of pedestrians who are isolated from traffic noise. This is often due to them having the volume too high, or through the use of headphones with noise cancelling technology.

“This isn’t so much of a problem at major junctions, where traffic lights and crossings give visual guidance for when it’s safe to cross, but on quieter roads ‘podestrians’ can lead to drivers having to suddenly slam on their brakes.

“But when an absence of vehicle noise is combined with the visual distraction of texting you end up with a podestrian that’s even more ignorant to oncoming traffic. This greatly increases the likelihood of them causing an accident. ”

To minimise the risk of accidents, Swinton Insurance is advising all drivers to be extra vigilant for pedestrians that are clearly wearing headphones or seem distracted by their mobile phones - especially at junctions where traffic flow is not controlled by lights or other clear signals.

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