Most people think they can walk and text, but statistics prove otherwise. Between 2015 and 2016, for instance, there was a 10 percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in the United States, likely due to the number of people walking while distracted by their phones. It’s because of this that Honolulu, Hawaii, recently passed legislation that targets texters and other “smartphone zombies” as they step off the curb.
On Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the “Distracted Walking Law” which is the first law of its type to be passed in the U.S. Reuters reports that it passed 7-2 earlier this month by the city council. Said Caldwell, “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 country.”
The law will go into effect on October 25, at which time the Honolulu Police Department will begin handing out fines. First-time offenders will receive a $15-$35 fine, second time violates within the same year will be fined $35-$75, and those who are caught a third time will be charged $75-$99.
People making calls for emergency services are exempt from the ban. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, police will implement a three-month training and warning period until the law goes into effect.
Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the council, applauded the initiative. She said during a phone interview, “Cell phones are not just pervading our roadways but pervading our sidewalks too.” Opponents, on the other hand, argue that it “infringes on personal freedom and amounts to government overreach.” Nonetheless, it is expected that the law will result in improved public safety — and that is applaudable.