We all know that texting and driving is dangerous, but what about texting and walking? In 2016, a total of 5,987 pedestrians were fatally injured in the United States, an increase of nine percent from the previous year. And research shows that this increase is at least partially due to smart phone use. On Wednesday, Honolulu will become the first major city to enact legislation aimed at solving this growing problem. The Hawaiian city’s new law will allow police to stop and fine pedestrians who are looking at their phones instead of paying attention to their surroundings.
When people text and walk, they have four times the risk of inadvertently engaging in another dangerous action, such as jaywalking. Initiatives to combat “cellphone zombies” are popping up around the world. Mumbai has no-selfie zones, small cities in the Netherlands and Germany have installed LED-illuminated crosswalks, and other cities are posting prominent warning signs. In response to Honolulu’s new law, several other cities and states are considering similar legislation.
Honolulu is the first major city to pass a walking-and-texting ban, but at least one smaller municipality actually got there first. Rexburg, Idaho adopted a citywide ban on distracted walking in 2011, after five pedestrians were killed in a short period of time.
“It was a shock to our system,” said Stephen Zollinger, the city attorney for Rexburg.
In response, pedestrians are prohibited from using hand-held devices while in Rexburg, unless they are talking on the phone. The small city hasn’t had a pedestrian fatality since the ban went into effect. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.
Are Safer Vehicles the Answer?
Not everyone is convinced that distracted walking legislation is the answer. Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation, thinks such laws distract from more important issues, such as poor road design and driver speed. In addition, Sadik-Khan thinks that improved vehicle design could help. According to Deborah A.P. Herman, the National Safety Council’s president and chief executive, features such as softer bumpers can greatly reduce the severity of injuries in a pedestrian crash. Unfortunately, only 44 countries require that automobile manufacturers incorporate these safety features. Not surprisingly, the United States isn’t one of those countries. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.
To some people, bans on walking and texting seem a bit like Big Brother. But keep in mind that this legislation isn’t the first traffic-related legislation to seem a bit intrusive. Laws enforcing seatbelt use, for example, were quite controversial initially. Time will tell if texting-and-walking bans have a measurable impact on pedestrian safety. In the meantime, if you have plans to visit Honolulu, don’t forget to put your smart phone away as you cross the street. And check back for updates on other U.S. cities. Boston may not be far behind. Continue reading