Philly to increase distracted driving, biking enforcement

To keep its streets safer, Philadelphia expands a program cracking down on certain moving violations by drivers and cyclists, and will caution people who use their cell phones while crossing streets.

The City of Brotherly Love is trying to practice some tough love on pedestrians who don't pay attention while they're walking.

Launched in May, a campaign known as "Give Respect, Get Respect" is geared toward preventing unsafe behavior on the roads, including pedestrians who talk and text while they cross the street.

As one example cited in a story by the CBS Philadelphia station, one cyclist had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting a man who crossed against the light while yakking it up on his cell phone.

The program, which has mostly doled out warnings to offenders, is set to issue more tickets to bicyclists and motorists who violate specific moving violations, Andrew Stober from the Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities told CNET.

However, in a clarification of earlier information published by CNET, pedestrians observed texting while walking or engaged in other risky behavior won't be fined or ticketed but may instead receive a friendly reminder by a police officer to watch where they're going. Officers might also hand out literature from the city advising such people about the dangers of distracted walking and not paying attention as they cross busy streets.

"It is not illegal to text and walk in Philadelphia, and no one will be stopped for that. They can't be written a ticket for it," Stober told CNET. "But we are, as part of this larger campaign, trying to educate pedestrians about distracted walking. In Philadelphia, it's about every four hours that a pedestrian is hit by a car, and about every 11 days that a pedestrian is killed by a car. And like any transportation tragedy, whether it's a plane crash or one pedestrian getting hit by one car, a whole set of things went wrong for that to happen. And we know that all too often on the road, whether you're walking, biking, or driving, it's that someone or everyone was distracted."

Drivers caught actually breaking a moving violation, such as running a red light or going the wrong way on the street, would be fined at least $120 under the "Give Respect, Get Respect" program. Grant money has been used to fund the program through the summer, but Philadelphia officials are trying to pick up a second grant to extend it for another 40 weeks.

Corrected July 21 at 1:00 p.m. PT After this story's publication, Andrew Stober, of the Philadelphia Office of Transportation and Utilities, clarified that people texting while walking might receive reminders from police officers but won't be fined or ticketed.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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