Honolulu bans staring at phone while crossing the street

Commentary: Starting in October, pedestrians will be fined if caught looking down at their phone while they're in an intersection.

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Texting and walking in NJ may get you a fine

Should this practice be banned?

Richard Levine

As a car driver, it drives you mad.

But when you're a pedestrian, have you ever crossed a road while, say, looking at Facebook or even replying to a text? 

Be honest now, and beware if you go to Honolulu. 

Hawaii's capital has decided it's had enough of humans who have been zombified by their phones. 

The mayor, Kirk Caldwell, signed a bill Thursday that makes it illegal to "cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device." The ban takes effect in October. 

Caldwell didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. This bill, however, seems to have sense at its heart. 

Caldwell told Reuters that he was driven by data. He said Honolulu had a particularly severe problem with pedestrians -- especially seniors -- being hit in crosswalks.

You might wonder how punitive this bill is. A first violation gets you a $15 to $35 fine. It's a $35 to $75 fine for a second offense. A third offense could cost you as much as $99.

Emergency responders using a phone in the line of duty are exempt, as is anyone calling 911.

This may be the first time a city has managed to pass such legislation. In 2016, a New Jersey Democratic assemblywoman proposed a bill that would fine texter-walkers $50, with persistent offenders being sent to jail. This, however, didn't even get to a vote.

It's easy to assume that those who use their phones while walking are always being selfish and frivolous. 

In some cases, though, as a 2015 Pew study showed, some people feel the need to catch up with tasks, as they walk. Technology has warped us, after all.

It would be heartening to think a law could tear people away from their phones and toward the real world.

Some cities, though, have given up on that hope. Instead, they've installed lights in the sidewalk to tell the cellphone-addled when it's safe to cross.

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