Hawaiian city police design punitive fee for when distracted walkers wont stop staring at their smartphones
Our smartphone obsession has reached a new low. The Hawaiian city of Honolulu has resorted to fining people up to $99 for staring at the devices, to try and force people to look up from their phones while crossing the road.
The new law gives police the power to fine people up to $35 (26.41) for their first offence, $75 for their second and $99 thereafter, perhaps expecting it to take quite some effort to get people to take notice.
The bill, which comes into force today after being rubber stamped by the Hawaiian citys mayor in July, states that no pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device. Mobile phones are included as well as any text messaging device, paging device, personal digital assistant, laptop computer, video game, or digital photographic device but audio equipment is excluded.
Holding a conversation on a phone while walking is still permitted, as is using a device in an emergency, but crossing the road while texting, reading or Facebooking as millions around the world do every day is not.
This is really milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety, Brandon Elefante, the member of the city council who proposed the bill told the New York Times.
While New Jersey proposed fines of up to $50 or 15 days imprisonment for so-called distracted walking in 2016, Honolulu appears to be the first city in the world put legislative action into force in a bid to protect citizens from the dangers of so-called distracted walking.
Other cities have tried physical adjustments in an effort to change pedestrians behaviour. Londons Brick Lane installed padded lampposts in 2008 to help those walking into them while texting. Last year, the German city of Augsburg went as far as embedding traffic signals into the ground near tram tracks.
Injuries from distracted walking are on the rise, and theres evidence to suggest that it is changing the way people walk. A study published in the journal Plos One found that texting and walking made people adopt an increasingly cautious stepping strategy and increased the time it took them to perform various tasks.
Some smartphone and app makers have also tried designing systems that use the devices camera to show the street ahead in the background of a text conversation.
Whether Honolulus new legislation is practically enforceable or the most effective way to change pedestrians behaviour remains to be seen.