We’ve all been stuck behind a smartphone zombie who is walking and texting at the same time. On the sidewalk, it can be annoying. But a smartphone abuser who’s strolling in the middle of a crosswalk can also be wildly dangerous.
This is precisely why a new law in Honolulu, Hawaii, makes it illegal for pedestrians to cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device. The statute, dubbed the “distracted pedestrian” law, was passed last week but doesn’t go into effect until October. It covers video games, laptops, and, of course, smartphones.
According to an article on CNN, fines for violators vary. First-time offenders will get a ticket for $15 to $35. After offense No. 2, the ticket will be $35 to $75. The third strike can cost you as much as $99.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said that while almost every state in the country has a law against texting while driving, his city appears to be the first major metropolis to set up a fine schedule for humans staring into phones while walking.
“Sometimes I wish there were laws we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail,” the mayor was quoted as saying. “But sometimes we lack common sense.”
The catch, of course, is that the law applies to everyone—even people visiting from out of state.
The new rule has a particularly colorful history. As the CNN piece explains, local high school safety clubs suggested the idea and studied pedestrian safety. It found that Honolulu has an unusually high rate of pedestrian deaths among senior citizens, but that the city’s overall rate of pedestrian deaths is on par with the national average.
Additional data strengthened the case for legislation; stats from the Governors Highway Safety Association reported pedestrian fatalities increased 11 percent nationwide from the first six months of 2015 to the same period in 2016, and noted this spike could be due to increased use of smartphones.
(As an aside, the Pew Research Center and ScienceDirect have published other supporting statistics on the subject; some of that data is compiled here.)
In the end, city leaders opted to err on the side of caution, and the law passed.
Local authorities say the statute won’t go into effect until October 25 so police have time to explain the new rules to the public. Increased signage at busy intersections is expected to be part of that campaign. And remember: If you plan to Instagram the signs, just do so from the sidewalk.