Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices are amongst the leading distractions to drivers. And it has been widely reported that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents. As a result, many states have enacted strict laws to discourage the habit. In some states, people found guilty of distracted driving can expect to pay hefty fines or face other harsh punishments. While distracted driving laws are designed to penalize distracted drivers and protect pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, what will protect other road users from pedestrians glued to their phones?
Smartphones are also becoming a great distraction to pedestrians. Many pedestrians today are glued to their phones as they walk. In some cases, these pedestrians are on busy streets and don’t recognize the danger they put themselves and other road users in.
Honolulu Taking a Stand
Lawmakers in Honolulu are now trying to ensure that all road users remain safe even from pedestrians who are oblivious to other road users by enacting a ‘Distracted Walking Law’.
The Distracted Walking law is about much more than simply preventing pedestrians from texting while crossing the street. According to Mayor Kirk Caldwell, the new bill covers pedestrians found viewing any mobile electronic device while crossing a highway or street. The devices that are covered under the law include cell phones, digital cameras, video games and laptops. This means the law covers much more than simply texting. It covers any activity involving the use of a mobile device while crossing a street or highway.
The enactment of the law comes after years of increasingly high numbers of pedestrian fatalities in the city. Honolulu is known to have exceptionally high pedestrian fatality rates. Other parts of the country that have high pedestrian death rates are likely to follow suit. A small New Jersey county for example has enacted a similar law that penalizes pedestrians who are found to cause accidents as a result of texting while crossing a street or a highway. While this law allows for talking on a cellphone while crossing a highway or street, it makes it illegal for pedestrians to look at mobile devices while crossing.
A Trial Period
Although enacted, the city of Honolulu will not begin to enforce the law immediately. The city has provided a three-month warning and training period. Within this time, violators of the law will still face fines. First time offenses will attract fines of up to $35. Second time violations will attract fines of up to $75 while third time offenders can expect to pay fines of up to $99.