Texting while crossing the street will be banned in Honolulu from tomorrow under a new law which will see violators fined up to $99.
The new legislation, which comes into force in the Hawaii capital and surrounding county on Wednesday, will allow police to fine pedestrians for checking their phone while crossing an intersection.
For a first offense, they could be fined $15 to $35. A second violation would cost from $35 to $75 and a third in one year could cost from $75 to $99.
Honolulu is believed to be the first major city to introduce such a ban which officials are hailing as ‘milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety’.
Honolulu City Council passed a bill Wednesday that prohibits pedestrians from looking at electronic devices while crossing the street. The bill still has to go to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who will make the final decision (stock photo)
Fort Lee in New Jersey was the first US city to outlaw texting and crossing the street in 2012, followed by Rexburg, Idaho the following year. Both have populations of around 35,000.
But this will be the first time a major city has tried such a ban.
City Councilman Brandon Elefante had introduced the bill over the summer and it was approved on July 12 by the City Council with only two members – Ann Kobayashi and Ernie Martin – voting against it.
‘Sometimes I wish there were laws that we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail. But sometimes we lack common sense,’ Mayor Kirk Caldwell reportedly said at the July 27 signing ceremony.
The law states that ‘No person shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.’
Some of the included electronic devices are cell phones, paging devices, personal digital assistants, laptops, video games, ‘digital photographic devices’ or ‘digital video recording devices’.
The ban does not include audio equipment.
The legislation adds: ”Mobile electronic device’ means any handheld of other portable electronic equipment capable of providing wireless and/or data communication between two or more persons or of providing amusement.’
Exceptions to the ban include people making a 911 call or emergency responders who are working.
‘The enforcement will be from a law enforcement agency. The Honolulu Police Department has testified, and our office has worked with them in particular on the language to make sure it is enforceable,’ Elefante told KHON in May.
One of the major factors behind the bill is that pedestrian deaths increased by ten per cent last year up to 6,000 – the highest rate since 1990. Although that rise has not been proven to be tied to smartphone usage, the Governors Highway Safety Association found them to be a common source of distraction for both pedestrians and motorists alike.
Of course not everyone is a fan of the new law.
Janette Sadik-Khan, a former commissioner of New York City’s department of transportation, said the law was ‘an easy way out’ while the real solution lay in engineering which he acknowledged was ‘a lot more difficult, but a lot more efficient.’
Honolulu Council member Ernie Martin had also complained the bill amounted to over-legislation, while the city should be focusing on bigger issues such as a homelessness and its rail project having a $3 billion deficit.
Honolulu City Councilman Brandon Elefante introduced the bill to the City Council