Officials nationwide look to stop the texting and walking epidemic

Don't Mess With Metuchen
(Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

Head to any major city and head out for a stroll. You’re bound to encounter a growing phenomenon: people texting and walking.

Much attention is paid to distracted driving — for a good reason. But, texting while walking is a real problem, one that is equal parts annoying and obnoxious.

Plus, it is actually dangerous. In one sense, it is surprising more people aren’t killed or maimed because of their careless and inane phone usage.

It appears cities are taking notice.

Honolulu in October started fining pedestrians between $15 and $99 for distracted walking. The precise amount of the fine apparently depends “on the number of times police catch them looking at a phone or tablet device as they cross the street,” Reuters reported.

Officials in Rexburg, Idaho, in 2011 banned texting or using a cell phone while crossing a street. Violators face $50 fine for the first offense and $150 fine for each subsequent offense.

In 2012, police in Fort Lee, N.J., started ticketing pedestrians for dangerous walking, which could include texting while walking.

Now, city officials in Chicago, a city where 27 pedestrians have been killed so far this year, are looking to slap fines ranging from $90 to $500 on pedestrians who use their cell phones while crossing the street.

“Everybody does it and then everybody is irritated when someone else does it. So my total view is I want to look at it,” CBS Chicago quoted Mayor Rahm Emanuel as saying. “I think it has something to do with peoples own safety.

Officials in Stamford, Conn., are also pondering such a fine on distracted pedestrians.

Studies seem to back up the notion that distracted walking is indeed dangerous.

A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association reveals the number of pedestrian fatalities nationwide increased 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. During the same period, the total traffic deaths increased by about six percent.

GHSA estimates the number of pedestrians killed in 2016 — approximately 6,000 — increased by 11 percent compared with 2015. The number of pedestrians killed in prior years are:

Year Number of Pedestrian Deaths
2016 5,997 (estimated)
2015 5,376
2014 4,910
2013 4,779
2012 4,818
2011 4,457
2010 4,302

While officials at the local level seem keen to roll out additional legislation, whether it will work to stem pedestrian fatalities due to distracted walking remains to be seen.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 79 Articles

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.

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