DC Trawler

Honolulu Bans Looking At Personal Electronics On Crosswalks

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I tend to have a particular interest in stories about pedestrians in large cities. When I moved to DC in 2010, I was amazed that so many people didn’t pay attention as they crossed the street. They just assumed that drivers would stop for them. I always paid attention to where I was going, eyes and ears engaged, without the distraction of an iPod or a smartphone. Of course, it didn’t do me any good because drivers in DC are even bigger scofflaws than the pedestrians, and government employees behind the wheel are even worse still.

All of which is just to pad out this blog post about the ever-encroaching nanny state. Ralph Ellis, CNN:

When you cross the street in Honolulu, look both ways — but NOT at the life-changing text your best friend just sent.

The city just approved a law making it illegal for pedestrians to “cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.” The law covers video games, pagers and laptops, and the ubiquitous smartphones…

Fines will be $15 to $35 for the first offense, $35 to $75 for the second, and $75 to $99 for the third. It will still be legal to talk on your phone while crossing a street, or to look at your phone on the sidewalk.

This raises the age-old question: What is the function of government? Yes, staring at your phone in the middle of a busy city street is a bad idea. You could be injured or killed. But is that anybody’s business but yours? And how will this law be enforced? Will there be cops at every intersection, looking for people crossing the street with their phones out? Will it be done via surveillance camera? How do you prove somebody was reading a text, and not turning their phone off?

And what about books and magazines? You know, the actual physical ones made out of paper? The law doesn’t cover those. What if somebody crosses the street while reading the latest Don Winslow bestseller and gets hit? Isn’t that bad too?

Just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean it’s a good law.

But hey, if this is what the people of Honolulu want, this is what their leaders are giving them. Now stop reading this and watch where you’re going!