A new law in Honolulu that bans people from crossing streets while texting on their phones is set to take effect Wednesday.
Police will soon be able to fine pedestrians as much as $35 for looking down at their mobile devices while walking in certain areas. Multiple violations could trigger an even stricter fine if caught, specifically as high as $99. The law was devised and ultimately passed for purported security reasons.
“This is really milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety,” said Brandon Elefante, the City Council member who proposed the bill, reports The New York Times.
There were an estimated 5,997 pedestrian fatalities in 2016, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association — an uptick by hundreds from previous years, likely due to an increase in the prevalence of cell phone users. Distracted driving — in which texting or general use of a phone while operating a vehicle seems to be the biggest culprit — has been the main concern as of recently. (RELATED: Distracted Driving Is A Huge Problem, And Autonomous Cars Could Help)
Now, distracted walking is getting attention.
The relatively small town of Fort Lee, N.J. started handing out $85 tickets to pedestrians caught texting and walking in 2012, according to Gizmodo. So did Rexburg, Idaho, which implemented the citywide prohibition in 2011 following a spate of local civilian deaths ostensibly started by a preoccupied walker. The city claims, according to TheNYT, that it hasn’t had a pedestrian fatality since.
But it’s arguable that there hasn’t been a large enough sample size to truly tell if such a policy will ultimately curb accidents between on-foot civilians and drivers on a wider scale.
As Jesus Diaz for Gizmodo once wrote:
I’ve also been bumped by pedestrians walking their dogs, lovers getting all over each other, people window shopping, fast walkers looking to the other side of the street, smokers looking for a cigarette, kids running around aimlessly, men in a hurry looking at their watches, women looking in their bags, girls browsing their iPods for a new album to play, boys playing Gameboy, and a hundred other combinations. Distractions and collisions happen all the time for a million reasons.
Nevertheless, some cities, like Honolulu, are trying the ban, since some studies show that texting disrupts people’s abilities to do simple tasks like walk.
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