Texting While Driving Taken One Step Further
By now, everyone should be relatively familiar with texting and driving laws which make it a crime to be typing on one’s phone while behind the wheel. 47 states have enacted these laws. However, Honolulu has taken the driving law one step further by banning texting while crossing the street.
According to city officials, those who are walking and staring obliviously on their phones, not paying attention to nearby pedestrians and cars driving by, are just as dangerous — mainly, to themselves. They are at risk of crossing right in front of oncoming traffic.
So far, only a small county in New Jersey has a similar pedestrian texting law, but several other jurisdictions have considered enacted their own rules regarding texting and 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,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who signed the new bill, said. “You would think you wouldn’t have to tell people to not text in a crosswalk because you may be walking against a light and get hit.”
The new Distracted Walking Law was passed on Thursday after a 7-2 vote earlier this month by the city council. Only members Ann Kobayashi and Ernie Martin voted “no.”
“The law covers cell phones, laptops, digital cameras or video games being looked at while crossing the street. It specifically states, “No pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.” The bill holds exceptions for 911 calls and emergency responders.
“Now that it is the law, I think we’re going to have more people — students — listening to what’s going on,” Kel Hirohata, a Waipahu High teacher who advises the school’s Youth for Safety program said. City Councilman Brandon Elefante originally introduced the bill on behalf of community members and students belonging to Youth for Safety clubs at Aiea and Waipahu High Schools.
The Honolulu Police Department will begin enforcing the law on Oct. 25. Prior to its enforcement, it will implement a three-month training and warning period to get residents used to the idea.
Violating repeatedly can quickly add up. After the law goes into effect, first-time violators will be fined $15-$35; second-time violators within the same year will pay out $35-$75; and those who get ticketed a third time will be charged $75-$99. Honolulu Police Department Captain Thomas Taflinger said that like other infractions, a police officer will actually have to witness the violation in order to issue a citation.
“Cellphones are not just pervading our roadways, but pervading our sidewalks too,” Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit National Safety Council, said. A 2015 University of Maryland study found more than 11,000 injuries resulting from phone-related distraction while walking in the United States between 2000 and 2011. “As technology has advanced, we sometimes forget about the real issue, and that’s about safety,” City Councilman Brandon Elefante added. However, some have called the bill “intrusive” and “local government overreach”.