$500 fine for “distracted walking?” That’s what Chicago pedestrians could be facing if a new proposed ordinance becomes law. The ordinance, as reported by Dick Johnson at NBC Chicago, says:
No person shall cross a street or highway while using a mobile electronic device in a manner that averts their visual attention to that device or that device’s activity
This may strike some as ridiculous. However, there’s little doubt that distracted walking in Chicago is a real problem. You don’t have to be a safety researcher to recognize that people have their faces buried in their screens.
As reported by the National Safety Council:
Distracted walking incidents are on the rise, and everyone with a cell phone is at risk. According to federal data on highway fatalities, there were 5,987 pedestrian fatalities in 2016 – the highest number since 1990. This represents an increase of 9% over the 2015 totals.
In fact, Honolulu, HI has already implemented a distracted walking ordinance. As reported by NPR, in Honolulu:
Fines start at $15 and go as high as $99 for a third-time offense in the same year.
As advocates for injury survivors, we regularly see the consequences of distractions.
It seems that, as a society, we’re really just beginning to understand the impact of smartphones on safety. We already know that distracted driving is big problem that is only getting worse. While collisions resulting from distracted walking seem like they’d be much less severe, the data on injuries from distracted walking are limited.
According to Safety.com, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
Nearly 5,000 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 76,000 injured in traffic collisions in the United States in 2012. That’s one death every 2 hours and an injury every 7 minutes. While it’s not clear how many of these are a direct result of distracted walking, the total rate of pedestrian fatalities compared to overall road deaths is getting worse each year.
While it’s not clear how many of these are a direct result of distracted walking, the total rate of pedestrian fatalities compared to overall road deaths is getting worse each year.
Would an ordinance actually deter distracted walking? I suppose the first answers will come out of Hawaii. With respect to Chicago, it seems that such an ordinance might create an enforcement nightmare. While that’s not necessarily are reason not to have the ordinance, it certainly should give us all pause. Do we want valuable Chicago resources directed toward stopping people from distracted walking?
So, what do you think Chicago? Is a distracted walking ordinance a good idea?