When you were young, your parents probably taught you how to cross the street safely, by looking both ways for oncoming cars. But they probably didn’t advise you to put away your cell phone while crossing the street.
The City of Honolulu wants to be sure everyone is taught that lesson.
Beginning on October 24, texting while crossing the street will be against the law in that city. Step off the curb onto a street in Honolulu, Hawaii while looking at your phone and you will be subject to fines ranging from $15-$99, depending on how many times you have violated that law.
Honolulu is the first major US city to ban “distracted walking.” It recently passed a bill by a 7-2 vote that states: “No pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.” In other words, don’t be looking at a screen when you cross the street or you could be fined.
The goal of the new law is to reduce the number of people getting killed while crossing the streets of Honolulu. Mayor Kirk Caldwell told Reuters, “We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the county.”
The law applies not just to cell phones, but also to other electronic devices with screens, such as tablets, hand-held gaming devices, digital cameras and laptop computers. The law does allow exceptions for pedestrians calling 911 emergency services and for emergency responders such as firefighters and police officers.
Pedestrian deaths have been increasing as the use of cell phones increases. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrian deaths in the US increased 25% between 2010 and 2015. That trend continued in 2016 with preliminary data showing that the number of pedestrian deaths rose to nearly 6000, an 11% increase over the number of pedestrian deaths in 2015.
Will Honolulu’s new distracted walking law start a wave of similar laws, like the ban on texting while driving? The State of Washington was the first to outlaw distracted driving back in 2007. Now, in the United States, 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have laws against distracted driving by banning text messaging for all drivers, according to the GHSA.
This video from The New York Times illustrates how texting while walking is dangerous and even downright rude, plus how to be safer and more courteous if you need to text on-the-go:
If you still want to text while walking, you could avoid being fined in Honolulu (and be safer everywhere) by using your voice with a digital assistant such as Siri or Google Assistant. Or you could just wait to text…
Do you think Honolulu’s law banning distracted walking is a good idea? Vote in The Wonder of Tech poll to share your opinion:
Do you approve of Honolulu’s new law to ban texting while walking? Do you think it will make Honolulu safer and reduce pedestrian deaths? Do you text while walking?
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*Texting in the Rain image (edited) courtesy of Roberto Trombetta via Flickr and Creative Commons