Yes. You read that right. Honolulu could be the first city of many to take action against distracted walkers – namely, those who are viewing electronic devices while crossing streets in the city and surrounding county. The Honolulu law allows police to fine pedestrians up to $35 for viewing the screen of their smart phone or other electronic device as they attempt to navigate a crosswalk.
City leaders hope they are setting a high bar for pedestrian safety that can be followed across the United States and the world over.
Federal reports agree that pedestrian deaths in the United States increased by 9 percent in 2016 over 2015. The spike can be partially attributed to electronic distractions – both for drivers and walkers. Pedestrians, believing themselves to be safe, often decide to multi-task while walking. However, checking email, replying to texts or updating a social media status pulls their attention from the task at hand … exactly like it does for drivers. Distracted walkers often trip on curbs, fall over objects on the sidewalk, run into other walkers or wander into traffic. Entering a crosswalk without paying attention can be fatal as drivers might not see the pedestrian and the walker has zero chance to react.
At least 10 states have debated legislation similar to Honolulu’s and nations worldwide are taking steps to reduce the dangers of distracted walking. From fines to LED-illuminated cross-walks to specially designed traffic lights, pedestrian deaths are not being taken lightly.
Since recording five pedestrian deaths in a short period, Rexburg, Idaho, barred pedestrians from using electronic devices – except while talking – while crossing public streets. The ban went into effect in 2011, and “we’ve not had a pedestrian fatality since,” said Stephen Zollinger, Rexburg’s city attorney.
Pedestrian accidents cannot be taken lightly, as those walking tend to suffer catastrophic – or even fatal – injuries. Whether distracted walking is illegal in your area or not, we encourage you to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure you own personal safety while crossing public streets.