Honolulu Targets Oblivious 'Smartphone Zombies' By Enacting Crosswalk Ban

Soon it will be illegal to fire off a text message or look down at your phone while crossing the street in Honolulu, the largest city in Hawaii. The ban will take effect towards the end of October, at which point Honolulu will become the first major city in the United States to effectively ban distracted walking, a growing problem as pedestrians become consumed by their mobile devices.

Texting Walking
Image Source: Flickr (Alan Levine)

Laws against distracted driving are on the books all over the place, though distracted walking has largely been ignored when it comes to legislation. Honolulu is leading the charge as more cities consider ways to protect so-called "smartphone zombies" from themselves. It sounds silly—and in some ways, it is—but some pedestrians seem to have fallen a peg or two down the evolutionary ladder when holding a smartphone and have a knack for walking into traffic, falling off piers, and running into objects.

"We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the county," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

While it is not real common to pay for text messaging these days (it is usually bundled with a data plan), Honolulu pedestrians caught breaking the ban could have to fork over between $15 and $99, depending on how prior infractions they may have. The ban also applies to tablets, though not to making calls for emergency services.

While not exactly an epidemic, a University of Maryland study published in 2015 found that more than 11,000 injuries resulting from phone distractions occurred while walking in the US between 2000 and 2011. The study led to the National Safety Council wanting to add "distracted walking" to its annual list of the biggest risks for accidental injuries and deaths in the US.

Not everyone agrees that this is something that needs legislated. Those who oppose the ban feel this is another example of government overreach.