Tuning out: New York, California and Oregon propose banning cell phone and iPod use by pedestrians

Joggers, beware: Your be-bopping while running maybe soon be a thing of the past, at least in New York, California and Oregon.

A proposed bill in New York would prohibit the use of iPods and other electronic devices, such as cell phones, while crossing streets. In California, another piece of legislation would fine cyclists $100 for doing additional tasks, such as listening to music, while on a bike and in Oregon a pending bill would prevent cyclists from using ear buds and phones.

In Arkansas state Senator Jimmy Jeffress proposed similar legislation. His initiative was met with such intense public opposition that he has since withdrawn his bill. Apparently, given the aforementioned new proposals, Jeffress’ failure will not be a discouragement to other state legislatures.

“I’ve had about half a dozen positive hits on it and ten times that many against it. That’s the thing,” Jeffress said. “I think it’s just time to let everybody know to quit e-mailing me.”

A report released last week by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association noted an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths across the country.

“[B]ased on preliminary data supplied by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Fatalities for the first six months of 2010 increased by seven deaths to 1,891 from 1,884 during the same period in 2009. This is an increase of 0.4 percent,” the report reads.

“I think it’s an infringement on personal rights,” one jogger runner told the New York Times. “At some point, we need to take responsibility for our own stupidity.”

Ryan Young, regulatory studies fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller, tongue-in-cheek, that politicians must have solved all the other problems plaguing their states if they were focused on initiatives such as this.

“New York, California and Oregon must either be the most trouble-free places on earth, or else politicians there have some seriously skewed priorities. Amazing the things they find time for,” Young said. “New York is threatening a $100 fine for violators. The state’s budget deficit is on its way to $9 billion. If this program is intended as a revenue-raiser, they’ll have to catch 90 million violators to close the budget gap.”

Young believes these three states will not be the only ones attempting to control pedestrian activity. The prohibitions will likely spread.

“[T]his will expand. If texting-while-driving bans are any indication, more and more cities will pass bans. Then there will be federal legislation,” he said.

New York State Sen. Carl Kruger, the Brooklyn Democrat responsible for the proposed legislation, however, is unconcerned with the possible impingement on liberty, to Kruger it is a safety issues.

“We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross,” Kruger said. “You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

Similar proposals have gone after cell phone usage in vehicles. In November Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the Department of Transportation was looking into requiring cell phone scramblers – to disable cell phones – in vehicles. Drivers and walkers best get their transit music fix in fast, it might not be allowed for long!