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Mayor on distracted walking: ‘It’s a shared responsibility’

Jul 28, 2017, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:17 pm
Distracted Walking...
(File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

This article was updated July 28 to reflect the latest news on the distracted walking law in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The first time I wrote about distracted walking, all I could think about were the flood of emails that would await me the next morning.

But it was only three days later when The Seattle Times did a story of their own on the topic — followed by other media outlets in the city.

Four days later, a city council in Honolulu, Hawaii placed a bill that would make it illegal for pedestrians to use phones and other electronic devices while they crossed the street on Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s desk.

On Thursday, Caldwell signed that bill into law.

Here’s Caldwell’s reasoning for signing the bill, as reported by Hawaii News:

While we have laws in place for our motorists and our bicyclists, now it’s a shared responsibility for pedestrians as well, to really pay attention as they cross the street.

RELATED: From cell phones to sweatpants, do Seattleites lack restaurant etiquette?

Washington state’s distracted driving laws is now much tougher than in the past. As Chris Sullivan reported, drivers can’t do much more than, well, drive. That means you can’t hold your phone while you drive or are even stopped at a light.

The law should cut down on injuries and fatalities related to distracted driving, but it won’t eliminate them.

As I said before, if cities like Seattle truly want to eliminate traffic-related deaths, a ban on cellphone use should target pedestrians as well as drivers. Drivers are only part of the problem. Someone walking across the street with their face pressed against their smartphone’s screen or catching looking for a date on Tinder can easily put them in a deadly situation.

Completely banning cellphone use for pedestrians would be a little extreme. How else would you know whether or not you’ve arrived at that restaurant without being told by Google Maps?

That’s why a similar law as the one signed into law in Honolulu is perfect for us Seattleites. It would make it illegal to look at your phone while crossing the street. Violators would face a fine ranging from $15 to $99.

“The advancement of technology can sometimes be a distraction and cause people to not pay attention,” Honolulu Councilmember Brandon Elefante said the same day the bill on distracted walking was approved by the council.

Two council members voted against the bill in the 7-2 decision. One of those was Councilmember Ernie Martin, who said there are more pressing matters and the issue could be addressed “through other means?”

My question to him: What other means? A campaign shaming people into paying attention? If people don’t have the common sense to put down their phone while they cross a street, it’s unlikely they will care enough to heed the warnings of city government. People still smoke and the government has been warning about that for years. They also still use their cellphones while driving, which is what brought about this entire discussion in the first place.

If Seattle government is willing to target the rich with a citywide income tax, why not be willing to make all those oblivious pedestrians pay? The city would probably make more money off them anyway.

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Mayor on distracted walking: ‘It’s a shared responsibility’