By now, many if not most of us that have or know what a smartphone is are aware of the dangers associated with its use while driving. Many may not be aware of the hazards caused by walking and texting or reading. In the United States, there are a growing number of cities and towns taking a proactive stance to ward off pedestrian accidents caused by those overly engrossed with their phones.
In Ft. Lee, New Jersey, police began issuing $85 citations for careless walking, and the Utah Transit Authority made distracted walking around trains punishable by a $50 fine. While that may seem steep, $50 is a small price to pay verses walking off the edge of a train platform and falling onto tracks or even worse – an incoming train.
Delaware has taken the approach of ‘hey, pay attention.’ The state has allowed the placing of about 100 large stickers with the words “LOOK UP” on sidewalks near crosswalks in Wilmington, Newark and Rehoboth Beach, urging pedestrians to pay less attention to their phones and more to what’s going on around them. According to the Jonathan Adkins, spokesperson for the Governors Highway Safety Association, “Delaware may be breaking some new ground. It’s really an emerging issue.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, “Look Up” stickers are placed on sidewalks at busy intersections on the University of Delaware campus in Newark to remind texting pedestrians to pay closer attention to traffic. Nabree Tilghman, 18, slowed his walk slightly to check his Android smartphone as he approached an intersection this week in Wilmington, Delaware. “If you’re aware of your surroundings, it’s safe. You just have to be smart about it.” said Tilghman, a student at Delaware Technical Community College. Tilghman admits he has, on occasion, tripped while texting and crossing the street but says he hasn’t run into anyone or had close calls with a moving vehicle.”
There are thousands of others that have not fared as well. In 2008 alone, research from Ohio State University showed cellphone use by pedestrians led to more than 1,000 emergency-room visits nationwide. In March, a 45-year-old woman had to be rescued from Lake Michigan after she fell off a pier while texting and walking, police said.” When people are talking on cellphones, texting or even listening to music, unfortunately, they’re not as aware of what’s going on around them,” said Police Lt. Mark Farrall in Newark, Delaware.
The woman who fell into a fountain inside the mall while texting received over a million hits on YouTube. She was also quite lucky. I have to admit that my awareness has escalated dramatically when it comes to others texting or talking on cell phones while driving. Yes, I am one of those that will roll down the window and yell at drivers to get off the phone. One thing that pains me is to see children or babies in those vehicles. Although I haven’t gone after any pedestrians, I do however; shake my head as I watch many of them crossing busy streets and texting. Our local (Santa Cruz, California) college areas are notorious for that. I imagine it is only a matter of time before something similar to New Jersey and Utah pedestrian laws are implemented here.