The Digital Deadwalker – Is it time to fine individuals who text and walk

Walking through a crowded street, you can’t help but notice the ‘digital deadwalker’ paying more attention to their screen than the fast-approaching incoming traffic. This is particularly prevalent with millennials – who spend a significant amount of time texting, listening to music, reading emails, browsing social apps, and talking on their phones while walking. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, these distractions have contributed to 5,987 pedestrian fatalities in 2016 and nearly the same figure in 2017; making it two years in a row of figures not seen in nearly two and a half decades.  Perhaps, it’s time to consider passing a bill to fine individuals who walk with their eyes glued to their phones, videogame devices, laptops, and pagers, while crossing the street.

Initially, we may discard the idea of such a law, because honestly it sounds ludicrous that we’d have to spend time to put forward a bill preventing individuals from looking at their screens while walking or crossing a street. The bill would almost impose on personal freedom – can the government really dictate where we should look? However, we’ve all had someone bump into us on the street because they were looking at their screen.  Distracted pedestrians, similar to distracted motorists, are a potential hazard to themselves and others on the road. Walking and driving are the two primary modes of getting around and both pedestrians and drivers need to be fully alert of their surroundings. As the number of distractions continue to increase with technology, the need for safety improvements will only become direr.

Cities Are Now Implementing Distracted Walking Laws

The Hawaiian capital, Honolulu has already addressed the issue by passing a law allowing police officers to fine pedestrians anywhere from $15 to $99 for staring at their smart device while crossing a street. They are considered the first major U.S. city to ban distracted walking. The town of Fort Lee, New Jersey also banned the practice a few years ago.  And the move has other cities such as Glendale, which ranks as one of the worst cities in California for pedestrian accidents and the worst city in its population bracket for pedestrian accidents involving seniors, questioning if they should follow suit.

If you look at most cities, police already have the ability to summon pedestrians who do not adhere to crosswalks and pedestrian traffic lights. This law would come almost as an extra enforcement and help crack down on people that are jaywalking and texting. If you have to look at your phone, simply cross the road with your undivided attention and then find a safe spot where you aren’t disturbing or putting anyone else at harm.

Distracted Walking Laws Could Be the Answer

Even though the law could be hard to enforce and only time will tell if it helps, a ticket would hopefully shift the social norm and discourage individuals from pulling out their cell phones when unnecessary.  At the end of the day, individuals comprehend the value of public safety. This legislation is common sense and practical – it will save lives.

Vania has guest written for National Motorists Association on a couple occasions and is an advocate for motorist and pedestrian safety. She also acknowledges her slight addiction to her phone. Between moving and becoming a stay at home mom, she relies on her phone to maintain some sort of social interaction and virtual support system — and although it may have its drawbacks, it is also pretty amazing.  But being more aware of the dangerous, she unhesitatingly puts it down when she steps outside of her home. You can follow Vania on her Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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2 Responses to “The Digital Deadwalker – Is it time to fine individuals who text and walk”

  1. James C. Walker says:

    Most of pedestrian safety is terribly simple, as I was taught 60 years ago by my parents telling me how to safely walk to my elementary school which involved crossing a major four lane connector street. “Look left, look right, look left again, and NEVER try to occupy the same space as a moving car.”

    • Vania Silva says:

      James, thank you for your comment. It should indeed be simple, the problem is cars and technology have evolved and sometimes a simple reminder is needed. I wish we could go back to the simplicity of the early 80’s.. Less technology, more children playing outside, more peace, and more rock and roll.