In Honolulu? Text and cross the street and you’ll get a fine

Taking a trip to Honolulu? Then definitely do not look at your smartphone when crossing the street.

In a bid to stamp out this somewhat hazardous behavior, the Hawaiian city will fine you up to $35 if you’re caught gazing at your phone when crossing the street. Get caught a second time and it’ll cost you up to $75. And a third time — regardless of whether you’re in hospital by then having been hit by a car — pushes the fine up to $99.

The city approved the law earlier this year, and it goes into effect on October 25.

The strict ban, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, is an attempt by the Honolulu authorities to discourage people from using their phones while walking along, a risky habit born out of our growing addiction to smartphones and other handheld tech over the last decade or so.

The new law states that “no pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.” So, best leave your tablet and Kindle in your bag, too. Oh, and don’t be looking at the screen on your digital camera, either.

There are a couple of sensible exceptions to Honolulu’s new law. You’re fine if you’re making a 911 call, and emergency responders, too, are allowed to use a mobile device in traffic in the course of their duties.

So let’s be clear — you can be talking on your device while crossing the street, but just don’t spend any time gazing at the screen or you could lose some of your vacation spending money. And be mown down by a bus.

While off-road distracted walking is likely to get you into scrapes and bumps now and again (though occasionally much worse), doing it while crossing the street turns the risk dial all the way up to 11, a reality that has prompted Honolulu to act.

Ground-based solutions

Stopping short of imposing fines and instead reconciling themselves to the fact that no matter what, people will use their handsets while walking along, officials in two cities have been fitting ground-level traffic lights at crossings in the hope that pedestrians engrossed in their phones will spot them as they go to cross.

The technology was first used in the city of Augsburg, Germany, in 2016 before finding its way to Sydney, Australia. Other efforts to impose order on pedestrians lost in their smartphones include so-called “texting lanes” that have undergone trials in a number of cities, including Antwerp, Belgium and Chongqing, China.