Every driver has experienced that moment of fear when proceeding through an intersection or sidewalk crosswalk, and seeing a pedestrian walking toward the road looking while down at their phone. You do not know whether the pedestrian understands where they are relative to the road and will stop accordingly, or if they will proceed to walk through because they are too distracted by their phone. “Distracted walking” is dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians, and cellphones are far and beyond the primary cause of it. According to a study published by the University of Maryland, 11,000 injuries phone-related injuries have occurred as the result of distraction, between 2000 and 2011. Honolulu, Hawaii has sought to become the first US city to pass legislation in effort to eradicate this problem.
According to Reuters, effective October 25, 2017, Honolulu has banned pedestrians from looking at their phone while crossing the street. If a police officer catches a pedestrian walking while distracted, they can be fined anywhere from $15 to $99 depending on how long they were looking down at their phone. Understandably, emergency calls are exempt from the ban.
This distracted pedestrian act has set out to address the fact that distracted driving is not only the problem, but that distracted walking also poses many dangers as well. Kirk Caldwell, Mayor of Honolulu, addressed the reason for the law by telling reporters, “we hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any city in the country.”
While Honolulu is the first American city to begin addressing this distracted pedestrian issue, they are not alone alone outside the United States. Large cities “across the pond” such as London, England and Augsburg, Germany have begun experimenting on how to curb distracted walking in their own right. London has begun wrapping pads around lampposts to cushion the impact in the event that a distracted pedestrian walks directly into one. As the Michigan Law Firm, PLLC blog previously informed readers, Augsburg has installed traffic signals in the ground, so that they are visible to pedestrians whose are looking downward while using their phone.
While most can agree that Honolulu's attempt to protect pedestrians from being involved in pedestrian car accidents is a good idea, there are adversaries to this distracted walking bill. Honolulu resident Ben Robinson, claims that the bill infringes on personal freedom and encompasses government overreach. Robinson wanted to see the law repealed by telling the city council through written testimony, saying he wants the government to "scrap this intrusive bill, provide more education to citizens about responsible electronics usage, and allow law enforcement to focus on larger issues.”
Whether one agrees or disagrees with a law banning pedestrians from crossing the street while looking at their phones, it is undeniable that distracted walking presents many dangers to pedestrians walking along busy roads. Anyone walking down Woodward, Avenue in Michigan can tell you how often they've almost been hit by a car! Only time will tell however, if other large cities, including Detroit, Michigan, decide to follow Honolulu and pass distracted walking bans of their own.
In the meantime, look up from your phone when crossing the street! Whatever text you are sending or article you are reading can wait. Pedestrian safety is more important.
Pedestrians who cross busy without paying attention to traffic because they are consumed by their phones, are a danger to themselves and motorists. Pedestrians must be careful when crossing the street, and they must understand that whatever may be on their phone is not as important as their safety and can surely wait. Have you been in an accident involving distracted behavior? Call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation.