I've been driving for many, many years now. I've driven on the road that takes me to my place so many times that I now let my subconscious do most of the driving. Much like when we walk, we're not constantly thinking about the steps. We do that automatically.
I had a chance to do a little driving in Europe a few months back. What a different experience! Apart from having to concentrate on keeping on the correct side of the road, I also had to be aware of the different driving etiquette on the road. This is not to mention the road signs that I sometimes didn't understand or things written indifferent languages.
There's also muscle memory. I drive a manual car, so I have to shift the gear with my left hand. It's the other way round in Europe. I'm not sure which is safer actually - subconsciously expert driving or paying intense attention to the road.
While I was out photographing the streets the other day I came across this scene. I was actually a couple of seconds late for the shot because my camera wasn't ready.
In the original scene that I would have captured, both of these guys had their head buried in their phones. They were approaching the crossing and didn't even bother to check for oncoming cars. The gentleman in front actually stepped unto the road and almost got hit by a car.
In this scene, the slowly approaching car had just tooted its horn to alert the pedestrians. The look on his face, captured in this photo, kind of shows the attitude of some pedestrians. In the next scene, which I didn't catch, he went ahead and threw a well known finger signal at the driver.
The man behind him - also about to step onto the road as seen there only looked right due to the commotion. His priorities appeared to be phone first, me second, his life third. In this scene, he actually appears to make eye contact with my camera. It could be that he saw me taking the photo, or he was looking at the man in front of him, who just happened to be in line.
That's the other thing. I noticed that at crossings, people tend to outsource their safety to other people waiting to cross. Let's say a few people are waiting to cross at the traffic light - waiting for the green light to pass the pedestrians. Most of those people would take that opportunity to check their phones - if they hadn't already been texting while walking that is. While doing this, their peripheral vision would be somewhat aware of movement around them, so if someone starts to cross, they also follow to cross without checking if it is safe or not, or if the lights have indeed passed them.
This is a very common behaviour that I've observed here in this city, and I'm quite sure it's the same in many places. I've seen so many near incidents due to this behaviour, including some where people have been hurt. The reaction of the pedestrians when these near incidents occur also isn't every encouraging. Many react with anger, as if to say it wasn't their fault.
I am naturally paranoid on the roads anyway - both as a driver or pedestrian. I could be a cyclist in this city for fear of been mauled down by a van driver. Even more likely is someone on their phone walking right into my cycle lane and causing me to swerve unto oncoming traffic.
This is compounded by the fact that as someone who photographs the streets, I have to be very observant. I'm always watching what other people are doing, and what's going on around me. I think I've been doing this for so long now that I have developed the skill of pattern recognition. I can pretty much predict what's going to happen about 5 to 10 seconds ahead - like collisions, people bumping into each other, things falling off and hitting someone, e.t.c.
Things happen in chain reactions, and the signs are always there of you're paying attention.
Thank you for you're time.