In Honolulu, a new law took effect in October regarding texting. But this time, the law is not aimed at drivers; it’s targeting pedestrians.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, police in Honolulu are now permitted to fine people up to $35 if they are texting or doing any activity that requires them to look at their smartphone or tablet while crossing the street. They hope these measures will reduce the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
Why is texting so dangerous for pedestrians?
In 2016, pedestrian deaths rose five percent from 2015, bringing the total to 5,987. This is the highest number of pedestrian deaths in America since 1990.
It’s easy to see why not looking where you are walking is hazardous, especially when you are not paying attention to oncoming traffic. Some of the reasons texting and walking puts people in danger is that they:
- Are nearly four times as likely to fail to look both ways before crossing
- Are nearly four times as likely to engage in jaywalking
- Take nearly 20 percent more time to cross the street than other people, leaving them exposed to traffic for more time
And, of course, any accident in which a vehicle strikes a pedestrian has the potential to be catastrophic or fatal. A car does not have to be speeding to do serious damage to a person. Simply being knocked to the ground may result in a concussion or more severe brain injury, for example.
Not everyone agrees with these laws
There are other cities in the U.S. and Europe that are starting to consider similar laws. However, not everyone is on board with restricting smartphone use for pedestrians.
Former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan, claims laws such as these are not a solution. She says, “They have no basis in any research, are poorly conceived and distract from the road design and driver behavior issues that are responsible for most crashes.”
What do you think? Are pedestrians accountable for their behavior when crossing the street? Will laws like the one in Honolulu help to reduce these dangerous accidents? It is likely that this will be heavily debated before similar laws pass in other cities or states.