Locally people refer to the smartphone users who do not pay attention to their surroundings as Smombies, the short form for a “smartphone zombie”, and the action by the city council follows on from a warning from a local board which promotes safety in public and private life known as the Board for Traffic Safety (KFV).
One in five pedestrians is reportedly at risk from a distraction caused by smartphones according to local research.
The city council believes that putting airbags on the lampposts is a way of signposting the fact that people need to be more careful when using their smartphones and walking around town.
KFV expert Martin Pfanner said: “We are of the opinion that when people see this very public warning in the form of lamppost airbags of the dangers of not paying attention, they will change their behaviour.”
Local media interviewed people who confirmed that on seeing the lampposts it reminded them to take more care, and they stuffed their smartphones into their pockets.
Pfanner added that the situation is so severe that it is now pedestrians who are involved in more accidents than anyone else on the city streets, including cyclists, moped drivers and car drivers.
He said that the lamppost airbags are necessary because in terms of accidents, 40 per cent of the injured pedestrians were hurt because they were distracted at the time of the injury.
The Salzburg initiative follows on from similar initiatives around the world.
For example in China there are special sections of certain pavements that are reserved for people using telephones and walking at the same time, while in Honolulu anyone crossing the road and looking at their phone will be fined.
In the German city of Augsburg they have started putting traffic lights on the ground where they can be more easily seen by somebody staring at a smartphone.