Over the last couple of years, we have heard a great deal about distracted driving and efforts by various cities and states to reduce car accidents by banning cell phone usage and texting while driving. Now, many jurisdictions are looking at other behaviors and considering whether similar laws concerning bicyclists and pedestrians might be useful in preventing pedestrian accidents.
In New York, legislation has been proposed that would ban pedestrians or joggers from using cell phones, iPods, or other hand-held electrical devices while crossing streets. The law was proposed by Carl Kruger, a state senator from Brooklyn, who claims that three pedestrians have been killed crossing streets since last September and all were listening to music though headphones as they crossed.
According to Kruger, the distractions of talking or listening to music as they cross the street cause many to forget the basic rules of looking in all directions, listening for cars, and then crossing safely. Experts seem to agree that headphone use creates a sort of natural distraction that keeps people from remaining aware of their surroundings.
Similar statutes dealing with pedestrians and bicyclists have been proposed in Oregon, Virginia, and California. However, a proposal made in Arkansas was withdrawn by a legislator after heavy criticism from the public.
Much like cell phone bans, these proposals are likely to be controversial for a while with some arguing that they are useful in protecting people from a dangerous activity and others arguing that such bans are an intrusion into our personal freedom.
Source: The New York Times, States’ lawmakers turn attention to the dangers of distracted pedestrians, Susan Saulny and Matt Richtel 1/25/11