Hawaii

Honolulu Becomes First City to Ban Texting While Crossing Streets

Its for your own good, you know.

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Woman texting
Jeshoots/pixabay

Honolulu's recently passed ban on texting while crossing the street will do little to promote public safety while subjecting citizens to a whole new set of petty fines and government intrusions.

The "distracted walking" bill, the nation's first in a major city, bans anyone from "looking in the direction of the screen of a mobile device" while crossing a street. Violators are subject to fines ranging from $15 to $99, depending on the number of offences.

Residents of Honolulu were up in arms about the ban even before it passed, with many submitting critical testimony to the city council.

"Stop treating our citizens like we are babies," said Shannon Ball said in a letter to city councilmembers.

"This bill proposes to infringe on personal freedom in exchange for some unquantified perception of safety. I have seen no attempt by any party to justify this infringement," added another.

Indeed, little suggests that Honolulu is a particularly dangerous place for pedestrians, nor that ticketing smartphone users in the streets will make it much safer.

In Smart Growth America's ranking of 104 cities on their Pedestrian Death Index, Honolulu came in well below average at 82nd, with 1.76 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents.

The small but entertaining literature on those injured while distracted by their devices also undercuts the notion that smartphone users are uniquely endangered by road crossings.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Safety research found that 52 percent of accidents resulting from a distracting cellphone occurred at home, not along roadways or in cross walks. Of those who's 'distracted walking' injuries were severe enough to warrant admittance to an emergency room, 85 percent were able to be released without further hospitalization.

Attempting to fix this imagined epidemic of "smartphone zombies" with fines is also problematic.

As with many local ordinances that subject everyday behavior to civil and criminal sanctions, Honolulu's 'distracted walking' ordinance opens up residents—particularly homeless residents—to greater degree of petty harassment from law enforcement.

As Reason has covered previously, jaywalking ordinances have been used by cities before as a way of forcing homeless residents away from downtown areas and tourist attractions.

Honolulu itself has engaged in this kind of targeted enforcement under current mayor Kirk Caldwell's "compassionate disruption" policy, handing out tickets for everything from sitting on sidewalks to being on beaches after hours.

"Tickets, tickets, tickets," one Honolulu homeless woman told The New York Times in 2014, saying "The cops give you a ticket to keep you moving. And then you have to pay the ticket for sleeping in the park. It gets to you."

Adding a new offense for the normal activity of glancing at an electronic device while crossing an intersection gives police one more excuse to engage in this kind of enforcement.

Yet despite the safety and civil liberties concerns expressed by Honolulu residents, Caldwell has stood behind the distracted walking ordinance, saying at a signing ceremony, "sometimes I wish there were laws that we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail. But sometimes we lack common sense"

Indeed, sometimes we do.

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  1. The “distracted walking” bill, the nation’s first in a major city, bans anyone from “looking in the direction of the screen of a mobile device” while crossing a street.

    In cases where that becomes a problem, it tends to be self-correcting.

  2. “Stop treating our citizens like we are babies,” said Shannon Ball said in a letter to city councilmembers.

    How about like cash cows?

    1. Cash calves?

    2. In Honolulu? That ship sailed a long time ago.

  3. challenge that with a t9 flip phone.

  4. Is H&R commenting still allowed?

    1. No, and the penalty is exile to Hana.

  5. The “distracted walking” bill, the nation’s first in a major city, bans anyone from “looking in the direction of the screen of a mobile device” while crossing a street.

    Last time I checked, automobiles were mobile devices with wind screens on the front. You probably want to look at those carefully when you’re crossing the street. And who the hell is Kirk Caldwell? That’s a haole name, isn’t it? What’s the foreign devil doing in the mayor’s office?

  6. If a cop stands on the other side of the street with a phone and holds it up, does that count? If I look down while my phone is in my pants, does that count?

  7. This bill proposes to infringe on personal freedom in exchange for some unquantified perception of safety.

    50%? 75%? What quantity of perception of safety is it going to take to get you into this frivolous penny-ante regulation?

    1. This bill proposes to infringe on personal freedom in exchange for some unquantified perception of safety.

      So, basically same-old same-old.

  8. Possible alt-text: “My cell phone says I’m going to be hit by a car in 3, 2, 1 …”

    1. The calls! They’re coming from inside the bus!

  9. The speed limit on an island is understandably pretty slow. Now, I haven’t been to Oahu in particular but I’d say you’re way more likely to be hit by a car in Dallas than Maui or Guam, for example.

    If Hawaii cared so much about the dangers of looking somewhere other than the road or what you’re doing, why not make it illegal to look at all those scenic vista’s while driving? That way we know they’re serious.

    1. Seems to be a fucking sport around here, but I can see why it happens to often here. People just walk out into the street without looking. I guess they assume the cars will stop, or that they’re so cool no car would dare hit them, but they are often wrong.

      1. Everyone in major cities is in a huge hurry. That doesn’t seem to really be a problem on the islands, but since I’ve only ever gone there on vacation I can’t say if that’s a tourist thing or if it’s just the general attitude. Those people I’ve known who have moved to an island seem to indicate it’s truly a different mindset, but I can’t say for sure personally.

        I can tell you something else, and that’s that if trade to the islands ever gets disrupted for more than 3 days they are screwed and you’ll see people fighting over food within a week.

      2. People walk into the street without looking because our litigious society has said that 99.9% of the time a car vs. pedestrian accident occurs the driver is at fault and the pedestrian is essentially entitled to a lifetime income from the driver’s insurance company.

        1. You’re saying incentives drive behavior? What are you, some sort of apologist for capitalism?

        2. If they survive. Since there is a significant chance one might not survive such a crash, I seriously doubt people deliberately choose to risk getting hit. They just don’t think about where they are going.

      3. Too

    2. jaywalking in Dallas is fun sport.

      1. One good thing I can say about DPD, and it could just be my experience, is they don’t really give a shit about 95% of the so-called ‘little laws’. I drove around town with an expired registration for two years just for giggles and not one DPD officer gave me a second glance.

        Now the State Troopers or the Sheriff? They care about everything.

        1. my gf drives with tags that are from 3 tags ago and never gets grief. DPD has better things to do.

          1. I used to drive in Austin for a few years with out of state tags that were expired, expired inspection, and no insurance. The one time I got pulled over the officer was only interested in drugs or weapons…

            1. You can’t asset forfeiture for expired tags, they need to get a dog to sit by your passenger rear tire. Also, was your car worth taking, or just a POS?

  10. “sometimes I wish there were laws that we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail. But sometimes we lack common sense”

    who is this ‘we’ you are referring to?

  11. This isn’t just a ban on texting, it is a ban on answering the phone.

    So basically it’s a ban on multi-tasking. We already knew that politicians couldn’t legislate and think at the same time, this just codifies it into law.

    1. Multitasking is a myth, there is no such thing. Your brain is not capable of performing multiple high level tasks. What you are doing is task switching, like a one core CPU

      1. Not true at all.

        I can hear, see, breathe, and defecate all at the same time, Therefore, multitasking exists.

        1. Those aren’t high-level tasks – except arguably the last one.

          1. That last one is a “high level” task for me lately… :o)

  12. bans anyone from “looking in the direction of the screen of a mobile device” while crossing a street.

    Seems Hawaii is gonna need more lawyers.

  13. Can we ban texting at traffic lights, ’cause fuck you if you think I’m sitting through a third cycle.

    1. Sorry, Paul. That’s not “while crossing a street”.

      1. And can we ban going only 1/3d the speed limit? That’d help get me to my destination.

        1. Easily done.

          *** lowers speed limit by 3/4ths ***

          1. *everyone now does 1/3 of that*

            Sorry, that’s what they did here. When it was 35, everyone went 22. When they lowered it to 30, now everyone does 16.

            1. Really? Where do you live, a cemetery?

        2. Actually, and I could be wrong on this, I seem to recall that going much slower than the actual posted limit is illegal or at least considered a moving violation.

          1. I would calling it a not-moving violation, but I’m not bitter or anything.

          2. It’s usually considered to be “obstructing traffic”.

            1. But, who gets arrested when you ram it up granny’s asshole?

    2. yes. vital cause.

    3. Diane Reynolds (Paul.)|8.2.17 @ 5:34PM|#
      “Can we ban texting at traffic lights, ’cause fuck you if you think I’m sitting through a third cycle.”

      The reactions to a horn are quite amusing: ‘Who, me!?’
      Yes, you, you cretin!

  14. I take it the Honolulu legislature isn’t so keen on Black Lives Matter.

  15. If those phones were really “smart” they’d stop you from getting hit.

    Obviously the phone manufacturers are at fault here.

  16. Progs fucking love science but they hate natural selection. Go figure

    1. “I text while walking, and I VOTE!”

      1. If you live until November, and if they fix the voting machines to keep me out.

    2. you’d think they would love the Darwin awards

      1. No one can die, but overpopulation is one of our greatest threats.

  17. Adding a new offense for the normal activity of glancing at an electronic device while crossing an intersection gives police one more excuse to engage in this kind of enforcement.

    “You can check your wristwatch when you get to the sidewalk.”

  18. Who’s the dude in the pink dress?

    1. who’s the chick riding the hammerhead also.

    2. Brianna Wu.

  19. As Reason has covered previously, jaywalking ordinances have been used by cities before as a way of forcing homeless residents away from downtown areas and tourist attractions.

    You say this like it isn’t a feature.

  20. I wonder if the Secret Service carry a picture of Shikha?

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/02/…..index.html

  21. Side Note:

    This law is likely a consequence of an older law. Starting a few years ago:

    A car waiting to turn at an intersection must wait until all pedestrians have completely cleared the area. Ie., From the moment a pedestrian steps off a curb, until he steps up onto the distant curb, the car cannot move. Even if this is a 4 or 6 lane road. Now imagine a pedestrian taking 2x as long as necessary to cross because he’s practically stopped messing with his phone. Now imagine pedestrian #1 has almost cleared the intersection and then along comes pedestrian #2 who steps off the curb just before pedestrian #1 clears.

    I’ve driven there since that law took effect and it is maddening.

  22. “This bill proposes to infringe on personal freedom in exchange for some unquantified perception of safety. I have seen no attempt by any party to justify this infringement,” added another.

    And you will never see any attempt to justify that infringement, or any of the others.
    “Because I’m the mommy, that’s why”.

  23. Would text flaccid* pics.

    *It makes ’em curious.

    1. What a tease!

  24. Haha, this reminds me of a few years ago when my friend’s mom made national news by walking off a pier into Lake Michigan while texting. So we should definitely also ban texting near the beaches while we’re at it, because that’s dangerous too.

    1. So is your friend, uh..
      Well, to put it another way, is it genetic?

  25. Isn’t Hawaii a major tourism state? They’re going out of their way to discourage source of income?

    I imagine there are people taking selfies and texting everywhere in that state.

  26. As annoying and intrusive as this kind of law is, people wandering around in a daze while staring at their phones is a growing collision hazard while shopping, and I’m guilty too. What I don’t understand is why we can’t have a law that says “If you bang into somebody, in a car or on foot, and we find an active phone that indicates you weren’t paying attention to where you were going, then you are presumed to be at fault, and you will have to prove otherwise if you weren’t.”

    1. I’m guilty too

      I’m not. WTF is so goddamn important that people don’t look where the f–k they’re going anymore? I’ve noticed that most people can’t walk in a straight line when they’re staring at their phone, either.

      1. Yup. I’ve had my “stupid” phone for twelve years- and have sent exactly one text.

  27. This law makes sense. I once almost hit a jerk texting while he was walking. There are real reasons of safety for it. In many cases laws, like speed limits ARE appropriate, even in a totally libertarian society.

  28. Just ban suing if you get hit.

  29. I’m against trying to protect people from themselves via laws passed on the basis that “government knows better than you do.” But this one isn’t just a matter of robbing Darwin. When some clueless phone zombie walks out in front of my car, it’s an inconvenience to ME if I have to swerve into another vehicle to avoid hitting the asshole (who will then walk on with NO liability for having caused an accident, though he might pause to film it for YouTube.) Until they pass a blanket statute of “do whatever your dumb ass wants, as long as in doing it you don’t screw with anyone else” I’m OK with reigning in idiots piecemeal.

    1. Finally, some sanity.

  30. Maybe some of you live so far in the stix, you’ve never experienced some moron walking out into an intersection against the light or veering off course into oncoming traffic because they’re transfixed by whatever the hell their screen is showing them. It’s funny to talk about Darwin Awards, but there’s nothing funny when you’re trying to avoid them. Any sane person is going to be dealing with serious emotional fallout if they run over someone through no fault of their own. It’s human nature.

    Too many of you sound like you’d feel nothing but pleasure if you run over someone who dares to cross your right of way. You’re probably joking, but it doesn’t say much for your humanity.

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