Traffic expert and psychologist Dr Gregor Bartl says the same laws that already exist for drivers and cyclists should also be put in place for pedestrians.
“The people know about the danger but only when you point it out to them,” he said speaking to ORF Tuesday morning, adding that he thinks many people listening to music or texting on their phones step out into the road without paying attention.
“It has become a habit when someone crosses the street once, twice, or ten times and nothing happens, then they get no feedback. And then this dangerous behaviour becomes a habit.”
The dangers of texting or checking Facebook while on the go were pointed out last year in a study in the United States, where the concept of ‘Digital Deadwalkers’ is already well established.
Research carried out by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that 78 percent of 6000 Americans surveyed believe ‘distracted walking’ is a serious problem, with more than four out of ten having witnessed it. Twenty-six percent have said they had also been involved in ‘distracted walking’ incidents themselves.
“It is conceivable that a law could be implemented that says pedestrians are not allowed to read text messages while crossing a street,” said Bartl.
Vienna's pedestrian office Petra Jens is sceptical of the idea, however, telling the Krone newspaper that such a ban would fall short.
"What do they do with the next distraction? Is it then also forbidden to talk to a companion and look into a shop window?" she asks.