Road Safety News

US city bans pedestrians from texting while crossing streets

Monday 31st July 2017

Image: Richard Yeh / WNYC - via Flickr

Honolulu has become the first major US city to ban pedestrians from looking at mobile phones, texting or using digital devices while crossing the road. (BBC News)

The new law, which will come into effect in Hawaii's largest city from 25 October, states that ‘no pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device’. It is being introduced in a bid to reduce injuries and deaths caused by ‘distracted walking’.

First-time offenders caught gazing at devices, including laptops and digital cameras, face a fine of between $15-$35 (£11-£26), while repeat offenders face fines of up to $99. Urgent calls to the emergency services are exempt from the ban.

The bill, also known as the Distracted Walking Law, was signed off by the mayor of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell, after the city council approved the measure by a vote of 7-2.

Mr Caldwell told Reuters news agency: “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.

“Sometimes I wish there were laws we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail, but sometimes we lack common sense.”

The bill has, however, met with opposition from some members of the public who accuse the government of over-regulation.



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If you want to promote it on my behalf, that's fine with me Duncan, however as only 15-20% of vehicles are autos in the UK, expect some resistance from the 'driver training establishment' - in the UK anyway.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Well done for coming up with the answer to my question Hugh.

Let me just confirm that in addition to defensive driving and expecting the unexpected, every driver can be GUARANTEED never to hit a pedestrian by simply trailing the throttle and using left foot braking which will provide them with almost instant stopping ability?

The first two are often mentioned in the literature, but the left foot braking idea is extremely novel so will we expect to be seeing this appearing in all of the published road safety information as well as being included in the driver training syllabus?
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

In answer to Nick.
Nick said:
"Do we really live in a society in which we have to define thousands of individual acts as being illegal?"

Well in one way yes. Some people are either too stupid or arrogant to have any common sense. The stupid don't (realise) they present a danger, the arrogant won't accept they pose a danger. These people it would seen, in Hawaii, have not appreciated that there is a danger so need something more than the overarching Jaywalking Legislation.

Here in the UK, we usually use general overarching terms in legislation so that all eventualities are covered. Take the Construction and Use Regulations that outlaws the use of hand-held mobile telephones while driving. That legislation deliberately used the widest possible term to outlaw the use of hand-held telephones while driving by saying what you couldn't do with the word "USE". You must not use...etc.

Now even though that is only a 3-letter word it stilll confuses some people who insist on saying "well what if I use it for xxx, is that OK? For xxx replace any use of any description.

Maybe the legislators should have written YOU CANT USE A HAND-HELD MOBILE TELEPHONE FOR ANY USE INCLUDING, 1, 2, 3...n+millions Ina list.

No they just used the word USE.

So in another way, no there is no need to make specific lists in legislation if you can encompass all you want to outlaw. The problem with that are the stupid and arrogant.
The stupid don't know who they are...maybe the arrogant don't either.
Billy Lewins, Sunderland

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

Nick from Lancashire has a point. Referring back to one or two collision scenarios mentioned earlier, I presume no-one is going to propose that it be illegal for a child to run into the road, or possibly for a 'parent or other responsible adult to allow or otherwise cause a child to run into the road' or for anyone to step off the kerb and back again to walk past a mother and pram? We have to accept that on the highway, these events will inevitably happen sometime, somewhere and drivers have to be ready for them.

On New Year's Eve last, a man crossed the road ahead of me, engrossed in the phone in his right hand and had his takeaway in the left and it took three toots of the horn to get his attention and make him realise he was walking into the path of a moving vehicle. Had it been illegal as proposed fro Honolulu, I have a feeling he would have still done it.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Do we really live in a society in which we have to define thousands of individual acts as being illegal? Would it not be possible to make it illegal to walk into a road or to cause a vehicle to be propelled along a road without due care and attention, perhaps add in something about reckless or dangerous?

If we have to specify mobile electronic devices what about those of us who read "paper based texts" or turn their heads to talk to their mates, or read advertising hoardings, bus adverts, shop fronts, tee-shirt logos etc

Personally I think, with no research to "suggest that this may perhaps be possibly true sometimes" that the clever criminals or law breakers (or indeed lawyers on behalf of their clients) look at the lists of things which are illegal and say well what I did was not on the illegal list…………
Nick, Lancashire

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Yes I agree with this government legislation in the name of Road Safety. The modern age distractions like a mobile phone compromise the Green Cross Code. I wish the UK government would consider this with signage or advertising campaign posters and adverts including on You Tube ads.
Sean Mckenna

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Could either Mr Lewins or the person who agreed with him please explain that last comment which I would also describe as 'bizare' and 'silly'?

If I have caused him to reflect on his own driving for the better, then my words were not wasted.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (3)

Perhaps it's just me but I think this is a dangerous attitude:
" ...I don't want to hit anyone or anything with my car so I make a point of not doing so..." Hugh Jones Aug 2017

The attitude is dangerous, bizarre and as silly as walking across the road while typing a text on a telephone.
Billy Lewins, Sunderland

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I do despair at some commentators on road safety.

"dave finney: I suggest that we would prefer laws to be evidence-led."

Well that's all very nice Dave but what about introducing safety related laws as a preventative measure? Why are we waiting for deaths and injury to occur before people are protected from themselves?

I would also say that there is sufficient evidence of the practice of tech-addicted stupidity for Hawaii and the rest of the world to introduce this law as a preventative measure. The alternative is for the law-makers to be ridiculed for failing to introduce this law. Would that suit you better?
Billy Lewins, Sunderland

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Some of us are more collision-aware and pro-active than others Mr Lewins. That does not preclude spreading the word and trying to get others to adopt the same defensive driving practices though - I did it for years.

To get back to the news item, yes we know pedestrians are careless and distracted and may put themselves at risk and some may well say "serves them right" but speaking personally, I don't want to hit anyone or anything with my car so I make a point of not doing so - but then again that might be just me being supersensitive.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Having watched a video of a pedestrian being squashed and killed by a vehicle that was travelling at no more than 2mph before the pedestrian stepped onto the road giving the professional and competent driver absolutely no chance to stop; I would say that Hugh Jones and his driver culpability is nonsense.

To quote Jones: “…enough to guarantee no pedestrian collisions (or much else to be honest). In any event, it hasn't failed yet.”

Oh yes it has! It has also resulted in many having to examine the results, unpleasant and necessary as that is.

What you need to realise Hugh is that your personal experience sets no rule, law or reality. Just because you haven’t seen it or haven’t experienced a collision in your own world doesn’t mean it won’t and hasn’t occurred in someone else’s.

Just for your information the driver mentioned above was not culpable for the death of the pedestrian, the pedestrian was. It was not possible for a human to predict, react and stop the vehicle before the pedestrian stepped out to their death.

Should laws be introduced to protect people from their own stupidity or to highlight to them that some unnecessary action by them may be dangerous? Is this a stupid practice, using a distracting device while crossing the road, that could be already included in the “Jaywalking” legislation available in the USA? Well it most probably is able to be prosecuted under those laws but this specific law brings the rather stupid behaviour to the attention of the stupid.

Maybe the Mayor introducing it can get it pinged up on all of the mobile devices in Hawaii…now that would do some good.

The issue with that is there will be some people who simply need no advice and will carry on walking across the road while they look at their telephones because they think all drivers are practicing “trailing throttle + left foot braking = (almost) instant stopping ability - not quite defying the laws of physics maybe, but enough to guarantee no pedestrian collisions (or much else to be honest). In any event, it hasn't failed yet.”

Hugh, you really need to be aware, collisions are normally accidents and even careful, skilled and the best drivers have a chance of killing someone. If it ever happens to you while you are driving I hope that you can say that while you took great care it was your fault…even when it wasn’t.
Billy Lewins, Sunderland

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No secret Duncan - defensive driving! Always expect the unexpected. Mainly though it's "LOOK WHERE YOU'RE xxxxxx GOING! and to quote the Dft's perrenial message, "THINK!".

If you wanted a technical answer: trailing throttle + left foot braking = (almost) instant stopping ability - not quite defying the laws of physics maybe, but enough to guarantee no pedestrian collsions (or much else to be honest). In any event, it hasn't failed yet.

Defensive driving isn't new to this forum although it doesn't get mentioned as much as it should and if more drivers/riders did it, then we woud see a big reduction in the number of collisions. People involved in collsion prevention should be doing it anyway.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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We have no doubt what Mr Jones is doing, watching, anticipation, speed control and stopping distances etc, but it's how he does it with an absolute guarantee of success that's the mystery.

I'm sure that everybody in the world would just love to learn the secret because it would solve all the road-safety problems in an instant. That's what we are all here for after all isn't it?
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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I could pretend I have x-ray vision and psychic abilities but in reality, as I said earlier - it's just down to watching, anticipation, speed control and stopping distances - no mystery. I still find it alarming that some don't seem to get it - do you all have tunnel vision out there?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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In order to guarantee that no person, vehicle or animal enters into a driver's stop/swerve horizon, a driver must be able to reliably and continually predict with 100% accuracy what is going to to happen next. Being able to predict the future with 100% accuracy is an amazing feat of mental skill that cognitive neuroscience considers to be way beyond the current capabilities of the human brain so perhaps Mr Jones could tell us exactly how he does it so that we all might learn.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Last comment on this from me. I in no way question driver responsibility, in fact I quite clearly point towards the "onus" being on all road users. If pedestrians are led to believe drivers are responsible then they will take less care as they can always "blame" the driver for knocking them over even if the driver could not defeat the laws of physics. I would hope and expect that the disagrees are from road safety principles!
Nick, Lancashire

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I'm a bit dismayed by the 'disagrees' and Nick's questioning this principle of driver responsibility. I sincerely hope the disagrees are not from road safety professionals, in which case if the establishment won't or can't accept this principle, what chance have we got of persuading the man in the street (or driver in the street to be more accurate) of taking this on board?

I've read many collision reports as you described Nick and each time my heart sank, knowing the driver could have stopped if he/she were paying attention, being observant and being ready to stop i.e. self-management of speed. I don't accept 'the driver had no chance to stop' argument, as it is quite possible to give oneself that chance by driving accordingly. We should know by now that children can run out between parked cars, distracted adults can step out, car doors flung open in our path etc. all sorts of sudden movements and not necessarily unpredictable - but drivers should always expect the unexpected and be ready.

I don't think I said anything about banning vehicles near pedestrians, just that we shouldn't accept pedestrian collisions as somehow inevitable and unavoidable. They don't have to be but if road safety professionals themselves can't even agree that, why should we expect the everyday driver to do so?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Hugh - consider a description of a collision in which it is reported that "the child ran out away from its parent from behind a parked car. The driver had no chance to stop." This type of description - or similar- makes up the vast majority of the child KSI collisions that I see on a daily basis. Are you suggesting that the drivers in these cases are at fault? Or are you suggesting that moving vehicles are banned from all locations where there are pedestrians?
Nick, Lancashire

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Nick: In a car vs pedestrian scenario, the driver is the one in charge of the killing machine (to put it bluntly) and in my view has the ultimate responsibility not to hit the pedestrian. Peds are not invisible in the moments before they step into the road and a good, attentive driver will see them and anticipate their actions. The key words you used were 'appropriate speed' and 'braking distance' - the latter depending on the former -and if a collision ensued, then the driver clearly misjudged both! I think this is partly the ethos of 20s Plenty.
Hugh Jones Cheshire

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Hugh, I really can't see a way of the onus "always" being on the driver to avoid a collision? Isn't the onus "always" on all parties using the roads?

I have mentioned before on other threads and will mention again that if a pedestrian enters the path of a vehicle, moving at an appropriate speed, within its braking distance, then the vehicle cannot defy the laws of physics and stop before hitting the pedestrian. If the vehicle is not restricted from turning away from the pedestrian due to the presence of other road users then the driver may be able to avoid the collision but that is not always possible. Probably a similar scenario to the comments about autonomous vehicles being programmed to preserve the life of its occupants by "choosing" to hit the pedestrian rather than the oncoming HGV?
Nick, Lancashire

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Have they thought this through? Watches are often "mobile electronic devices" now. And have they any data on how many pedestrians are hit while viewing "mobile electronic devices", or is this just guesswork?

And, of those hit while viewing, how many had right of way? ie the drivers fault?

I suggest that we would prefer laws to be evidence-led.
dave finney

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The onus should still be on the driver though. Here's a novel idea: how about a law - if there isn't already one - where drivers have to pay attention, look where they're going, where they're going to be in a few seconds and don't go so fast that they can't stop for pedestrians - including those who may be 'making urgent calls to the emergency services' and who may be exempt from the prohibition apparently and therefore in the road.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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