Honolulu's new smartphone ban imposes a fine if you text at crosswalks

It may be known as the Aloha state, but you’d better think twice before you say hello on your mobile device when you’re crossing the street in Hawai’i. The capital of the island state, Honolulu, has just become the first major American city to pass legislation imposing a smartphone ban when it comes to crosswalks. Starting in late October, “distracted walking,” that caused by pedestrians with their eyes glued to their phones while crossing the street, will be subject to a fine.

The goal, of course, is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths that occur each year due to smartphone use during walking. A 2015 University of Maryland study notes that over 11,000 injuries were attributed to phone-related distraction among pedestrians in the U.S. between 200 and 2011. And now that we’re more smartphone-obsessed than ever, it is likely that this figure has only increased. Indeed, the National Safety Council has since added “distracted walking” to its annual list of the most salient risks for unintentional injuries and deaths in the United States.

So now, beginning October 25, those crossing streets in Honolulu will face between a $15 to $99 fine should they be caught walking and texting. The severity of the fine depends upon the number of times the police see them on their devices while crossing a street.

“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,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell told reporters at a well-trafficked intersection earlier this week.

The problem with distracted walking extends far beyond the shores of the U.S. Last year, Augsburg, Germany began embedding traffic lights in the ground in order to alert smartphone-facing pedestrians as to potential dangers before crossing the street. And in London, there are now padded lamp posts so that folks who run into these giant metal poles don’t suffer concussions.

But not everyone is thrilled about Hawai’i’s legislative solution.

“Scrap this intrusive bill, provide more education to citizens about responsible electronics usage, and allow law enforcement to focus on larger issues,” resident Ben Robinson wrote to the city council. But alas, until we find a way to provide that education, it looks like such bans could become more and more the norm.

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