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Crossing the street can be dangerous enough, but when you add not looking up from your screen, you could be at risk of getting seriously injured, or even killed. Cities in the United States and abroad are trying to crack down on that.
Honolulu took action by passing a new law which will take effect October 24th. Police will be able to fine pedestrians for crossing the street while on their mobile devices. The law, which you can review here, calls for fines ranging from $15-35 for first-time offenders; after a third violation, you can face a fine as high as $99.
The law specifies that a “mobile electronic device” means any handheld or other portable electronic that is able to provide wireless service. This could be a cellular phone, a paging device, personal digital assistant, laptop computer, video game, or digital photographic device, but does not include any audio equipment.
Honolulu is the first major city in the country to enact this specific ban, and it will affect those in and around the city.
“This is really milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety,” said Brandon Elefante, the City Council member who proposed the bill. He also claimed that pedestrians will now share the responsibility for their safety.
According to the New York Times, in the United States alone, pedestrian deaths in 2016 spiked 9% from the year prior. The death toll hit 5,987, which is the highest toll on American roads since 1990, according to federal data.
Many believe that smartphone use may be a large reason for the rise because it is “a frequent source of mental and visual distraction” for both drivers and walkers, a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association found.
People who text and walk are almost four times as likely to jaywalk or to not look both ways before crossing, according to Dr. Etienne Krug, director of the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention at the World Health Organization.
Walk and texters are also likely to take 18% more time to cross a street than undistracted pedestrians, Krug said.
At least 10 other states have debated similar legislation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, other legislation is pending in two states.
Last month, New York passed a law that directed New York City to study and increase its efforts to educate the general public on the dangers of distracted walking in major cities with bustling traffic.
Around the world, other nations are taking a different approach to the distracted walking issue. Bodegraven, a small town near Amsterdam, embedded LED-illuminated strips into the crosswalk at busy intersections to try to alert pedestrians when it’s safe to cross.