Texting While Crossing the Street in Chicago? You May Get Hit with a Fine

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Pedestrians walking around Chicago who are caught crossing the street while locked into their phones may face fines under a new ordinance proposed Wednesday.

Under the measure proposed by Aldermen Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), violators of text-and-crossing could face fines ranging from $90 to $500 per occurrence.

“The goal of the introduction of this measure is to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries, especially at crosswalks,” Alderman Burke said.

In the city alone, 27 pedestrians have been killed in the first half of 2017, CBS reports. This was a large increase from the same period last year, when only one death occurred, according to data presented to the Mayor Rahm Emanuel by the Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

The preamble to the ordinance notes that pedestrian deaths last year spike 9 percent from the year before, rising to 5,987-- the highest toll on American roads since 1990.

From 2011 through 2015, the city averaged 20.8 pedestrian fatalities, according to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Burke and Beale, on the other hand, did not present any data on how many of those deaths involved a pedestrian being distracted by a mobile device.

“Passage and enforcement of this new law would increase safety by eliminating distractions for pedestrians at intersections and elsewhere in the City of Chicago,” Alderman Beale added.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the ordinance has been receiving skepticism from city transportation officials and “a noncommittal response” from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are subject to distracted crossing are almost four times more likely to participate in jaywalking or not looking both ways when crossing the street. Distracted crossers also may take up to 18 percent more time to cross than undistracted walkers.

Earlier this year, Honolulu and San Mateo County, California, banned texting while crossing the street in an effort to decrease pedestrian-related deaths.

California will consider a statewide ban in January of 2018, and New York City is in the process of reviewing its educational efforts to inform the public about “distracted walking.”

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