The age of distracted walking is upon us. Just like driving while using a cellular device is extremely dangerous, so is walking. Following a bill passed in July, police in Honolulu will now be able to fine distracted walkers anywhere from $15 to $99.
Over the last few years, accident rates involving pedestrians in crosswalks and motor vehicles have dramatically increased. Many agree this surge is not necessarily due to the sudden inability to drive by vehicle operators, but rather the carelessness of pedestrians. Citing risks to civilian life, Honolulu legislature passed the bill which, after the three-month grace period which has just ended, allows police officers to issue tickets to pedestrians who act dangerously in crosswalks. The targets of this law are people who choose to text or look at their phone while attempting to cross an intersection or partake in otherwise dangerous activities because of the usage of an electronic device, such as phones, laptops, tablets and other mobile devices.
This is, overall, a highly beneficial law. Individuals are much more likely to listen to advice if there are legal and monetary consequences associated with not doing so. Sure, a simple scan of the area could rule out the presence of an officer, allowing rulebreakers to text while traversing the street and not get punished, but the act of scanning for an officer doubles as scanning for oncoming traffic, preventing accident.
The issues with this law are not in the way it is written but rather the fact it is needed at all. It seems, more and more, that society, particularly the younger generations, are losing the ability to participate in a level of thinking simply known as ‘common sense.’ How many would choose to walk into an intersection blindfolded? The answer is probably much fewer than those who actively cross while looking at their phones, though the former is safer than the latter.
The problem facing us is bad, enough that some have even suggested extending the ban to cellular use on all sidewalks pointing to an increased rate of tripping and collisions with inanimate objects. While not officially passed and borderline unconstitutional, the fact it was even suggested speaks for the environment we are living in.
Honolulu is not the first to pass a law similar to this, but it is the first major city to do so. Other cities and states are considering similar laws and whether or not Honolulu is successful will weigh heavily on their decision.
One logistical issue is the question of enforcement. How are police officers going to monitor all intersections looking for violators? Is that even the goal? If the law is purely symbolic, it is unlikely much will change in the rate of accidents. Even if police look out for it, it seems unreasonable to think all intersections would be covered at all times. How Honolulu plans to solve this issue remains to be seen.
The issue of distracted crossing is particularly important at UConn. With the increase in construction on North Eagleville Road, the elimination of crossings near South Campus and the increase in on-campus cellular use, a simple stroll around campus will bring to light the seriousness of the problem.
It seems like purely educating the general public about basic street-crossing rules is not sufficient. At some point, it seems common sense and safety have become less important or maybe just gone to the wayside. Maybe parents need to do a better job raising their children. Maybe giant neon signs saying ‘no texting on a crosswalk’ should be put up.
Regardless, in a legal system that puts drivers at fault for hitting pedestrians in crosswalks, no matter if the pedestrian was in wrong, distracted walking has caused many pains for both walkers and drivers. Nothing is more important than safety, so just for the few seconds it takes to cross the street, please look up from your phone. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy your surroundings.
David Csordas is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.