US City Bans Texting while Walking

09 August, 2017

Parents usually teach their children how to cross the street safely, by looking both ways for cars. But do they also teach them to put away their cell phones?

The city of Honolulu, Hawaii wants everyone to learn that lesson.

Texting while crossing the street will soon be banned in the city. Beginning on October 24, you could be fined from $15 to $99 if you step into a Honolulu street while looking at your phone. Honolulu is the first major U.S. city to ban what is called "distracted walking." It recently passed a law in a seven to two vote. The law says: "No pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device." In other words, do not look at a screen when you cross the street or you could be fined.

FILE - A man crosses a street in downtown Chicago while checking his phone.
FILE - A man crosses a street in downtown Chicago while checking his phone.

The law's creators hope it will lower the number of people hit and killed by cars in the city. Mayor Kirk Caldwell told Reuters news agency, "We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the country."

The law includes all electronic devices with screens: cell phones, tablets, gaming devices, digital cameras and laptop computers. The law does permit an exception. Pedestrians may use such devices in the street to call emergency services and rescue workers, such as firefighters and police officers.

Pedestrian deaths have been increasing as the use of cell phones rises. The Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA, says pedestrian deaths in the United States increased 25 percent between 2010 and 2015. That trend continued in 2016 with the number of pedestrian deaths rising to almost 6000, 11% higher than in 2015.

Other U.S. cities may follow Honolulu. The state of Washington was the first to outlaw distracted driving back in 2007. Now, 46 other states as well as D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have laws against texting while driving reports the GHSA.

If you still want to text while walking, you could avoid being fined in Honolulu (and be safer, in general) by using a voice-controlled digital assistant such as Siri or Google Assistant. Or you could just wait until you are again, safely, off the street.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Do you think a law banning distracted walking is a good idea?

Carolyn Nicander Mohr wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Do you like Honolulu's new law that bans texting while walking? Do you think it will make Honolulu safer and reduce pedestrian deaths? Do you text while walking?

Share your thoughts in the Comments Section below or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

distracted - adj. unable to think about or pay attention to something : unable to concentrate

pedestrian - n. a person who is walking in a city, along a road, etc.

distinction - n. the quality that makes a person or thing special or different

senior - n. a person who is older than another person

trend - n. a general direction of change

digital assistant - n. an application program that can understand natural language and complete electronic tasks for the user