Honolulu, the capital of the US state of Hawaii, has criminalized texting while crossing the roads. ‘Distracted Walking’ law is the new law that prohibits all pedestrians from using cell phones, cameras, laptops and video games. Until the legislation goes into effect on 25th October, police officers are being trained, and the public is being warned. Violators will be fined, and fines are subjected to go up in cases of repetitions.

Common good vs personal freedom

An alarming number of accidents by distracted pedestrians has urged the implementation of the ban. According to a University of Maryland study, there have been more than 11,000 accidents in the US due to “distracted walking” from 2000 to 2011. The dangerous phenomenon has been witnessed globally as well. Governments everywhere are urging pedestrians to stay away from their smartphones. The legislation met with many criticisms because of its intrusive nature. Opponents have also seen it as an epitome of government overreach. However, the move was a road safety measure that the government took. It is debatable if the ban on smartphones is just as necessary as the mandatory use of seat belts, traffic signals, etc. Texting while walking can distract the pedestrians from following the basic rules of road safety.

Interventions elsewhere

Although Honolulu is the first major US city to implement the ban, there have been proposals for such initiatives in New Jersey, Montreal, and Toronto. Cities are coming up with innovative and creative ways to deal with ‘smartphone zombies’ on the streets. In 2008, London tried out padded lampposts, so that people distracted by smartphones wouldn’t hurt themselves. Last year, the German city of Augsburg installed traffic lights on pavements, so that pedestrians looking down at their phones can follow the traffic signals. A Dutch town called Bodegraven-Reeuwijk has also done the same. While advocates for road safety voice that such initiatives encourage bad behavior, the government is only desperately trying to protect its citizens.

A deadly smartphone reality

The ‘Distracted Walking’ law is also much needed in India, as one-fifth of non-agricultural workers walk to work. Indian vehicle drivers and public transport providers grossly violate the road safety rules. According to a study by Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai, 79% of the population between the age of 18 and 44 constantly use their smartphones. Additionally, India experienced the highest number of selfie-related deaths in 2015. The government is forced to step in when careless citizens pose risks of injuries and deaths to others.