Crossing the street in New York City is a challenge in itself. However, it becomes even more of a hassle when pedestrians are busy using their smartphone while crossing the street. Since they are busy watching the screen, pedestrians seldom pay attention to the honking cab or a cyclist trying to get past them. That is why crossing streets while using the smartphone will soon become illegal.
A bill in the New York State Senate is aimed at banning pedestrians from making use of their portable electronic devices while crossing the road. The imposed fine for breaking this rule will range between $25 and $250. The ban will be statewide and shall include texting, checking emails, and browsing the internet. It, however, does make exceptions for emergencies.
The bill was put forth in the State Assembly in 2018 by Assembly Member Felix W. Ortiz. State Senator John Liu brought a version of it in Senate last week with the goal of pushing the issue forward. Liu has said, ‘It’s hard not to notice the number of people texting while walking, and downright alarming to see people continuing their texting while crossing the street. We want New Yorkers to know it’s OK to wait the 5 seconds.’
The bill has to be approved by the transportation committees not only in the Senate but also the Assembly before it can be enacted. The chair of the Senate Transport Committee, Sen. Tim Kennedy, however, has concerns. Kennedy has said, ‘I don’t support the concept in its current form. As someone who has rallied for significant pedestrian safety reforms for years, I prioritize the protection and security of all New Yorkers, but it appears to me as though this is an overreach of government.’
The count of pedestrian deaths is spiking, reaching the highest numbers that have been seen in decades. According to a report a 2019 report compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association, about 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2018. This is the highest count of pedestrians dying in about thirty years. The report listed ‘the large growth in smartphone use’ as a possible reason for this spike.
Liu has further added, ‘Sometimes even proposing legislation reminds people of common sense things to do and common-sense things not to do. If nothing else, the mere introduction of this bill has got people talking and thinking.’
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