The NSW government is spending $250,000 to try and stop pedestrians on smartphones killing themselves

Photo: Atsushi Tomura/ Stringer.

The NSW government has launched an Australian-first trial to help keep distracted mobile phone users safer on Sydney roads.

Because pedestrians are not looking up from their phones before stepping onto the road, the government is installing in-ground traffic lights at key pedestrian crossings in central Sydney, aimed at reducing deaths from traffic accidents.

The lights will act in the same way regular crossing lights to let pedestrians know when it is safe to cross the road.

The $250,000 six-month trial will begin start in December.

It follows similar measures taken by Augsburg in Germany, which implemented a similar strategy in April.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay says he didn’t want to have to resort to “hand-holding” measures but said “if these lights could save just one life — I’ll do it”.

The in-ground traffic lights will be rolled out across five sites in the CBD and will be integrated into the project to introduce countdown timers throughout Martin Place.

A road toll update for NSW, released yesterday, reports that 67 pedestrians were killed in the 12-month period ending May 31 2016. That’s up from 44 pedestrian deaths in the same period in 2015.

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