New York considers fining pedestrians for texting while crossing
Bill introduced to state senate would fine those caught using a ‘portable electronic device’ in crosswalks $25 to $250
In New York City, it seems no one can afford to miss an email or reply to a chat late, even if that means checking their phones when crossing the street. But soon these daredevils could get hit with a fine for their reckless behavior.
A bill banning texting while walking has been introduced to New York’s state senate. If the bill passes into law, New Yorkers can expect to be fined from $25 to $250 if police officers catch them “using a portable electronic device while crossing a roadway”. There are some people who would be exempted, including “an emergency response operator” and employees of a hospital, physician’s office or fire department, among others.
About 300 pedestrian fatalities occur annually in New York state. And while it’s unclear how many of these deaths happened because a pedestrian wasn’t looking while walking, John Liu, the New York state senator who introduced the bill, is determined to lower that figure significantly.
“[The bill] does not say you can’t talk on the phone,” Liu said. “We’re talking about handheld devices … you can wait the five seconds to get to the other side.”
“It’s a terribly misguided bill,” says Marco Conner, the interim executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a group committed to reclaiming the streets of New York City in favor of walking, biking and public transit. “Barely any data is being cited. Most traffic fatalities nationwide involve some kind of driver. It’s victim-blaming in disguise.”
Conner fears heightened racial discrimination by police if this law comes to pass. “It’s a recipe for subjective and discretionary policing,” he said.
Liu didn’t disagree but also doesn’t expect this to be a first priority of the police.
“There are many statutes where there is a possibility of selective enforcement and I’ll be the first to concede that this is not going to be the first priority of police, nor should it be. My intention is to help New Yorkers remember what they should do and what they should not do – wait the five seconds!”
When asked how he thought New Yorkers would receive the news of this bill, Liu said: “They may not say it, but there is a very clear gesture for it. It involves all five fingers of your hand and hiding four of them.”
By Erum Salam