Honolulu is the first major city in the U.S. to pass an ordinance that targets texters and enacts fines on pedestrians who use their cell phones while crossing the street. Under Bill 6, Honolulu will fine those deemed “distracted walkers,” or persons who watch their phones as they step off the curb.
The law doesn’t only apply to cell phone users. Those using laptops, digital cameras, or video games will also be expected not to look at devices while crossing the street.
On Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the bill, also known as the “Distracted Walking Law,” after it was passed 7-2 earlier this month by the city council, according to Reuters. The law is aimed to reduce injuries and deaths related to “distracted walking.”
“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 county.”
The Honolulu Police Department will begin enforcing Honolulu’s new law on October 25 of 2017. Until then the department will implement a three-month training and warning period, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Once the law goes into effect, first-time text-while-walking violators will be fined $15 to $35, second-time violators within the same year will be fined $35 to $75, and those who get ticketed a third time will be charged $75 to $99.
Pedestrians on Oahu can still talk on their cell phone while crossing the street, however, texting or using other electronic devices within a crosswalk is illegal.
Forty-seven states ban texting for drivers already, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, and 15 states also ban phone calls with hand-held phones by motorists. Honolulu is the first major city to outlaw texting-while-walking; a smaller county in New Jersey, called Fort Lee, banned the practice a few years ago.
Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit National Safety Council, told Reuters that “cell phones are not just pervading our roadways, but pervading our sidewalks too.”
Caldwell told Reuters news agency that they hold the title for the largest major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks than almost any other city in the county. Senior citizens are involved in the most crosswalk related injuries, Caldwells stated.
“Sometimes I wish there were laws we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail, but sometimes we lack common sense.”
Between the years 2000 and 2011, distracted walking incidents involving mobile phones accounted for more than 11,100 injuries in the United States, according to the US National Safety Council.
The figures for more recent years are likely to be higher.
The new law has met opposition from some members of the public, who accuse the government of over-regulation.
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