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New South Wales’ deputy premier Troy Grant and minister for roads Duncan Gay have launched a new ‘Towards Zero’ campaign aimed at combating the human element of the state’s road toll – one being distracted pedestrians.

With a year-to-date road toll of 177 – up from 142 for the same period in 2015 – the NSW government is investing millions of dollars in targeted initiatives to address issues such as speeding, phone-distracted pedestrians and road signage.

Over the past five years, the NSW government has invested around $1.2 billion in road safety, and the new campaign will add more than $25 million to that total.

Headlining the new initiatives is a $250,000 spend on a trial of in-ground traffic lights that will be installed at key pedestrian crossings throughout the Sydney CBD.

These new ground-level traffic lights are targeted at pedestrians preoccupied with their mobile phone to look up at the road they are about to cross.

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Where campaigns to remind commuters to be mindful of their surroundings are failing to cut through, it is hoped the trial of this new technology will help to reduce the amount of pedestrians unknowingly stepping into traffic.

The road-level lights will add to the existing lights and signals to notify pedestrians of when it is safe to cross the road.

A similar trial has already been conducted in Germany, with the in-ground lights helping to stop unknowing pedestrians from getting mowed down by trams.

Roads minister Duncan Gay said that despite the government’s efforts to increase road safety for motorists and pedestrians, it still comes down to people’s choices that determine the safety of others when on the move.

“Motorists are still flouting the law, regardless of the longest and most intense high-visibility police operations this state has seen,” he said.

“I can invest billions of dollars into making our road network safer and continue to deliver our road safety programs but I cannot control drivers, riders or pedestrians from making bad choices.”

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Bernard Carlon, executive director for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety, said in a statement: “Last year, 61 pedestrians were killed on our roads, a 49 per cent increase on the 2014 figure. So far this year there have been 31 pedestrian deaths, which is six more than the same period in 2015”.

“Other initiatives that target pedestrian safety include the rollout of pedestrian countdown timers at busy intersections, the introduction of 40km/h speed zones in high pedestrian locations and changing traffic signal timing to protect pedestrians from turning vehicles.”

With regards to the new in-ground traffic lights, Mr Carlon said that the trial of the new technology is scheduled to commence in December, and is currently “planned to run for six months”.

Locations for the ground-level lights are still to be determined, though the trial will involve five sites throughout the Sydney CBD. It is likely that the project will be integrated with the countdown timers throughout Martin Place.

Photos: YouTube – Augsburger Allgemeine

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