We’re all guilty of it. Whether we’re hurrying to a meeting while trying to text a client or just watching a video on Facebook while making our way to the store, we let our attention slip and cross the street without so much as a glance to the left or right. My parents taught me to look both ways – as most parents do – and for most of my life I’ve been careful not to forget the lesson. But ever since mobile devices made their appearance, remembering to watch for cars before crossing the street has started to slip my mind. I’m lucky, I live in a relatively quiet area and I’ve never had an issue – to date. But Honolulu has had enough.
As of yesterday, a new law is in effect that allows law enforcement to fine anyone seen crossing the street with their eyes glued to their mobile device up to $35. It might not seem like much, but increase the number of offences and the fines could stack up quickly. City officials are of a mind that the responsibility for injury and death should not be shouldered my motorists alone; pedestrians also need to share this responsibility by not walking blindly into traffic. Brandon Elefante, the city council member who first proposed the bill, declared that “This is really milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety”. And it’s not only texting or looking at your phone that’ll earn you a fine: Honolulu officials also include in the list of infractions simply speaking on the phone, so that very important conversation will have to be paused until you safely reach the opposite curb.
According to The New York Times, “People who text and walk, for example, are nearly four times as likely to engage in at least one dangerous action, like jaywalking or not looking both ways, and take 18 percent more time to cross a street than undistracted pedestrians”. It’s not hard to believe, but I’m still surprised by that percentage. I’m sure most people never really think about how much longer it takes them to cross while distracted – no more than they think about looking both ways before doing it. Honolulu might be on the right track here, and while they are the first known major city to pass this law, but I have a feeling it will not be the last.