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Why Stockholm smartphone zombies are worst in Europe

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Why Stockholm smartphone zombies are worst in Europe
People checking their smartphones in Stockholm. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT
12:18 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: Tech-addicted Stockholmers with their eyes glued to their smartphones pose the greatest traffic danger in European cities, according to a new study.

Whether it's to answer an new WhatsApp message as soon as possible (heaven forbid the sender thinks you're too busy or dead to answer them within a millisecond), or to alert the world of your latest foodie indulgence, Stockholm smartphone users are the Europeans most prone to putting themselves at risk in traffic.

That's what a new study from a German accident research group shows in its analysis of 14,000 pedestrians across six European capitals.

"We selected these cities and Stockholm ended up in the top simply because our researchers found that more people used their smartphone while crossing the street," Dekra press officer Wolfgang Sigloch told The Local on Friday.

Roughly one in six pedestrians hypnotically tune into their phones and out of the real world while crossing the street across Europe, Dekra found. Most of the people observed were texting, while others were plugged into headphones, making calls, or both texting and making calls at the same time.

Stockholm had by far the worst smartphone abusers with 23.6 percent, or nearly a quarter of people on foot, distracted by their phones while crossing through traffic.

Amsterdam on the other hand had the lowest number of 'smombies' (smartphone zombies) at 8.3 percent of pedestrians, while Berlin fell somewhere in the middle at 14.9 percent.

"We don't speculate about the reasons why, but of course there's an element of surprise and it is striking that Stockholm comes so much higher than Amsterdam," said Sigloch.

THE LOCAL GERMANY: Smombies wreak havoc on cities

Younger mobile phone users were more likely to be a 'smombie' than older users in the European study, with more than one in five (22 percent) of 25- to 35-year-olds interacting in some way with their phones while crossing the street compared to the average of 17 percent.

Across the European Union, 22 percent of those who die in accidents are pedestrains.

"One incident in Stockholm made a particular impression: a young girl stood in the middle of the road, got her cellphone out and started texting. It wasn't until a bus driver sounded his horn that she realized where she was standing and moved on," commented Dekra manager Clemens Klinke in a statement.

The figures are unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone who has spent time in the Stockholm underground, where commuters also tend to spend the journey hooked to their smartphones. And it is not the first time the tech-savvy Swedes' apparent addiction to the world of social media has been the topic of debate.

One of the creatives behind an ingenious unofficial road sign which went viral after it warned people of these smombies, as we have apparently taken to calling them, spoke to The Local last year about the craze.

"I am dependent on social media myself. And one day on my way to work I was almost run over because I was staring at my phone like a sick person. It hit me then that I'm not the only one with this behaviour and that it ought to be addressed somehow," Jacob Sempler, who created these signs with his colleague Emil Tiisman, said at the time.

Asked to comment the findings of the Dekra survey on Friday he replied: "This only establishes that we Stockholmers are the most anxious people on earth."

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