13 February 2016

Distracting walking?

The advent of smart phones has, in many ways, inaugurated the steady decline of civil society as many people now are more absorbed in their phones as they walk about merrily texting away as they walk into people, buildings, and poles (I've seen it all).

Several cities have chosen to accommodate this new form of oblivious walking - and so to encourage it - by creating "text walking lanes," thus removing the "hazards" in the way of these inattentive walkers. Washington, D.C., Chongquin, China, and Antwerp, Belgium, are among the cities to have done so. One legislator in Honolulu, however, doesn't want to follow suit.

Representative Sharon Har (D) has introduced instead a "distracted walking" bill that would fine people who text and walk at the same time:
The penalty would be a $250 fine that would go to the state Highway Fund.
"It just is another measure to ensure the safety of our pedestrians," Har said, adding that Hawaii has the 13th-highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation.
The fine is a bit steep, but in principle I think legislation like this might be helpful in getting people to begin paying attention to people around them again, though I think there are likely better ways to do so.

The proposed legislation is facing some difficulties in garnering the support of her fellow legislators because of its imprecision:
One major hang-up for the bill: Enforcement. As currently written, the bill defines “use” or “using” as “utilizing any of the functions of a mobile electronic device." That means someone could be fined for using headphones while listening to music or using a Bluetooth function to connect to a wireless headset [more].
 It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

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