Honolulu Enacts “Distracted Pedestrian” Law
Look both ways…and put your cellphone in your pocket! Now it’s not just drivers who are being targeted for their electronic device multitasking. On October 25, 2017, a “distracted pedestrian” law took effect in Honolulu. This becomes the first city in the United States to pass legislation that will punish pedestrians for using electronic devices while crossing the street. “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 country, ”Mayor Kirk Caldwell stated.
The law does not just cover cellphones, however. It also includes pagers, laptops, digital cameras, and video games. The law allows pedestrians to talk on their phone while crossing the street or looking at their device on the sidewalk, but not looking at it while crossing the street. The fines vary based on the amount of times the violator is caught: $15 to $35 for a first offense, $35 to $75 for a second offense, and $75 to $99 for a third offense. No information was found for four or more!
Honolulu’s distracted pedestrian law was actually the product of local high school safety clubs when they said their students were worried about friends wandering in the street. This prompted the clubs to study distracted walking. The students foresaw the potential danger of when a driver is on his or her phone and a pedestrian is in the middle of the street doing the same. It worried the students as they realized anything could happen. Some students felt that because it wasn’t already a law that they shouldn’t care. This made some local teachers insist that the law was necessary.
There were many who vociferously opposed the new law. Some felt that the city council was taking away simple freedoms and quipped that next would be magazines and books. The “distracted walking” narrative takes hold from an Ohio State University study that found pedestrians injured while using a cellphone has risen from below 1 percent in 2004 to 3.5 percent in 2010. The report, though, states that 70 percent of the injuries of pedestrians are while talking on the phone, not texting or using other electronic devices. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission data, these injuries remain in the low four figures and track neatly with distracted driver injury data in the same time.
As cellphones became more prevalent in our society, the problem of distracted driving rose with it as well. This prompted many states to outlaw cellphone usage while driving unless using a handheld device. Smartphones then followed cellphones, and then texting became the problem, especially among teens. As accidents caused by distracted driving increased, even more states adopted bans for texting. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 47 states have bans for texting while driving and 15 additionally ban phone calls with hand-held devices by motorists. The GHSA also predicted that 2016 would be the highest number of pedestrian deaths in more than two decades.