US

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

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

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 His initiative was met with such intense public opposition that he has since withdrawn his bill.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!

  • emem

    When a law is thought to be required to enforce common sense and polite behavior, we have a problem.
    I have to admit it is annoying when aisles are clogged by texters, drivers are distracted and unable to turn their car because one hand is occupied, and I have to listen to details of someone’s bad day. But these behaviors infringe on my rights as well.

  • Drahcir

    I hate to ask….

    But what’s next? Banning the AM/FM/CD/MP3 player factory installed? Talk about an up-roar!

  • r37890

    Yet another chip away at Liberty in the name of ‘safety’. First it was smoking; then trans-fats and junk food. Now it’s when and where you can use electronic devices. What’s next? Outlawing children in automobiles all together? After all, two children in the back seat are MUCH more distracting than a cell phone.

  • mapletree

    People that elect liberals who want to regulate every aspect of your life deserve the laws they get from the people they elected.

    • californiacitizen

      Unfortunately those laws also affect those of us who want the nanny state to just stay out of our business. The stupid government has got to the place where it thinks it needs to tell us how to live, work, and play in every aspect of our lives! Have you ever noticed how many PSAs are on the radio? If they aren’t passing a law, they are promoting a PSA to tell us how to live.

      Why oh why do people elect liberals? Do they WANT their lives controlled?

      • IMcasualcat

        um .. which liberal was it that decided that we needed “homeland security”.
        which liberal was it that gave us the Patriot Act?
        Which liberal assaulted the bill of rights and disregards habeus corpus?
        which liberal decided that minimum wage security guards get to sexually assault you before you can board an airplane?

  • logic

    “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.”

    Bleeding heart liberals are about the slimiest scum on the earth. Their self-righteous, all-knowing moral/safety cop mentality is the greatest, most ignorant and arrogant threat to individual responsibility and liberty; from ludicrous bans like this moron is proposing to the TSA body groping/scanning for “your safety”.

    Because we no longer have limits to what our government can do, this is what liberals think they are in office to do.

  • Rational_Texan

    See, this is why you want legislation passed locally rather than at the federal level. Allow others to F up their part of the country without affecting mine.