Written bySiddhant Pandey
We've all grown so accustomed to checking our phones every two seconds: be it in an office meeting, on the toilet, or on the road. But New York is hoping to make a change.
While nobody is barging in on your precious scrolling on the toilet, if you're spotted hooked onto your phone in the streets of New York, soon, you could be fined.
A bill in the New York State Senate seeks a ban on using portable electronic devices while crossing the road, imposing a $25-250 fine upon violation.
The ban would prohibit texting, checking emails, and browsing the internet.
Assembly Member Felix W Ortiz introduced the bill in the State Assembly last year and last week, State Senator John Liu introduced a version in the Senate.
"It's hard not to notice the number of people texting while walking, and downright alarming to see people continuing their texting while crossing the street," Liu told CNN. "We want New Yorkers to know it's OK to wait the 5 seconds."
Before the bill comes to a full vote, it should be approved by the Assembly and Senate.
However, an apprehensive Sen. Tim Kennedy, Senate Transport Committee Chairman, said, "As someone who has rallied for significant pedestrian safety reforms for years, I prioritize the protection and security of all New Yorkers, but it appears to me as though this is an overreach of government."
Back in 2017, Honolulu, Hawaii, had passed a first-of-its-kind "distracted pedestrian law," under which, pedestrians who would get distracted by their phones while crossing streets would get slapped with a ticket. Fines for violation ranged from $15 and go up to $500.
According to a 2019 Governors Highway Safety Association report, the United States recorded the highest number of pedestrian deaths (6,227) in traffic crashes in nearly three decades in 2018. In the report, "the large growth in smartphone use" was listed as a possible reason for the rising fatalities.
Reportedly around 75% of deaths were due to accidents after dark and 32% were alcohol-related fatalities.
In New York state alone, about 300 pedestrians die every year, and Liu is determined to lower that number.
However, speaking to the Guardian about the "terribly misguided bill," Marco Conner, interim executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit dedicated to reclaiming NYC streets, said, "Barely any data is being cited. Most traffic fatalities nationwide involve some kind of driver. It's victim-blaming in disguise."
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