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N.Y. lawmaker hopes to ban iPod use in crosswalks

State senator's bill would make it illegal to cross the street tuned into portable electronic devices such as MP3 players and BlackBerrys.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read
A New York state senator has announced his plan to introduce legislation that would ban the use of electronic devices such as iPods, BlackBerrys and cell phones while crossing streets in major cities.

State Sen. Carl Krueger, a Democrat who represents New York's 27th district in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, claimed that the phenomenon of "iPod oblivion" has led to a number of fatal accidents on urban streets. While he did not cite any statistical studies that have indicated a rise in such incidents, he referred to the January death of a 23-year-old Brooklyn man who, tuned into his iPod headphones, walked into the path of a city bus.

The bill would effectively make it illegal to use any kind of portable electronic device--a music or video player, cell phone, smart phone, gaming device, etc.--while crossing the street in cities such as New York, Albany and Buffalo. Offenders would be slapped with a $100 fine and a criminal court summons. Joggers and bicyclists would have to limit their iPod use to city parks in which no street crossing would be involved.

"You can't be fully aware of your surroundings if you're fiddling with a BlackBerry, dialing a phone number, playing Super Mario Brothers on a Game Boy, or listening to music on an iPod," Krueger said in a statement. He added that while police in other major cities--such as San Diego, Calif.--have warned that tuning in to portable electronic devices may leave pedestrians vulnerable to threats from pickpockets and muggers, he believes the real threat is from road traffic.

The popularity of iPods and BlackBerrys has emerged over only the past five years, but handheld devices are by no means newcomers to city streets. The concept for Sony's Walkman was patented in 1977, a full three decades ago. Nintendo's original Game Boy is only two years away from its 20th birthday. And portable radios have been around for even longer.

Not only will music fans likely complain about an iPod ban, but in New York City, Wall Street's notorious BlackBerry addicts may be loathe to put away their business tools when walking about the streets. But Krueger stands fully behind his new bill. "Tuning in and tuning out can be a fatal combination on the streets of New York," he said.