Tomer Dror, head of the traffic management division in the area, said the “zombie traffic lights” aim to minimise accidents between vehicles and inattentive pedestrians at crossings.
“We cannot force them to take their eyes out of the smartphone and into the road. We need to find ways to put the road into their eyes,” he said.
The striped lights turn green when it is safe to walk and red when pedestrians should halt.
For now, the pilot programme is limited to a single intersection in central Tel Aviv, but the municipality said it will expand the zombie lights if they prove effective.
Similar systems have already been used in Australia, Singapore and the Netherlands. So far, smartphone-addicted residents seem to be welcoming the lights.
“In my opinion, it’s something amazing,” said Tel Aviv resident Shai Levi. “As someone who is addicted to his phone and is all day long with his head glued on the screen, I think that it can, without any hesitation, reduce the number of accidents.”
Haley Danino, another pedestrian, also called it a good idea that will save lives.
“But it’s a bit sad, no?” she said. “We all look down all the time.”