Laws banning distracted walking will make crosswalks safer

In Opinion
An image of a woman facing away from the crosswalk light, looking at her phone. She has one earbud in and is reaching behind her to hit the crosswalk button.
(Photo Illustration by Gabe Gandara)

Smartphone users are starting to become so obsessed with staring at what’s happening on their screens that they aren’t aware of the activities that require their full attention, like crossing a street with possible oncoming traffic. Because these types of distractions have the potential for harm, cities are starting to pass laws against distracted walking, in an effort to reduce earbud use, texting and phone calls in crosswalks.

Although opponents could say this is too much government control in private lives, the law in question isn’t about impeding anyone’s freedoms. It’s about taking necessary precautions to keep the public safe, especially when the public often lacks the common sense to look out for themselves.

A couple of U.S. cities have recognized the growing digital presence in daily life and the possible dangers associated with it. Honolulu and most recently Montclair, California have now passed laws regarding distracted behavior when crossing public roadways.

In December, Montclair City Council passed a law stating,“No pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while engaged in a phone call, viewing a mobile electronic device or with both ears covered or obstructed by personal audio equipment.”

On Jan. 3 of this year, the law went into effect but won’t be enforced until Aug. 1, allowing time to inform the public on the importance and reasoning behind the law and the approximately $100 fine it entails, according to the Daily Bulletin.

Although reasonable and comparable to previously enforced public safety laws, people may still argue the government is too invasive or that if a pedestrian is following the law by using a crosswalk, they shouldn’t have to worry about cars.

Even then, it should be common sense not to use headphones and mobile devices when crossing the street. People are essentially letting their guard down in a vulnerable situation, increasing the likeliness of an accident.

“Sometimes people need to use common sense,” said Bill Ruh, Montclair city councilman.

This new law can be placed in the same category as hands-free cell phone, seat belt and bike helmet laws; it’s the government looking out for the public’s safety and well-being when the public lacks the common sense to think about these situations themselves. Montclair’s new law also requires one earphone out, asking almost nothing from pedestrians.

As for those who argue that there is entirely too much government control in their lives, the question is: who does it hurt?

No one is being harmed by having one earbud out and looking where they’re going when crossing an intersection.

Once the law goes into full effect, maybe they might even look up from their phone long enough to say good morning to someone.

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