New York might make it illegal to text while walking

(Photo: ThinkStock)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Crossing the street here can be challenging any time, and you might be even less likely to notice that honking cab or zooming bicyclist if you’re looking at your phone.

Now, it could become illegal to do so.

A bill in the New York State Senate seeks to ban pedestrians from using portable electronic devices while crossing the road. Fines would range from $25 to $250.

The statewide ban would include texting, checking emails, and browsing the internet, with exceptions for emergencies.

‘It’s OK to wait the 5 seconds’

The bill was introduced in the State Assembly last year by Assembly Member Felix W. Ortiz. State Senator John Liu introduced a version in the Senate last week, hoping to push the issue forward.

“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.”

The bill must be approved by the transportation committees in both the Assembly and the Senate before it can come to a full vote. And the chair of the Senate Transport Committee, Sen. Tim Kennedy, has expressed doubts.

“I don’t support the concept in its current form,” Kennedy said in a statement to CNN. “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.”

Pedestrian deaths are the highest in decades

Honolulu passed a similar law in 2017┬áthat appeared to be the first of its kind and was known as the “distracted pedestrian” law.

A 2019 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2018, the most in almost three decades.

The report cited “the large growth in smartphone use” as a possible reason.

About 75 percent of fatalities occur after dark, with alcohol contributing to an estimated 32 percent of fatalities.

“Sometimes even proposing legislation reminds people of common sense things to do and common-sense things not to do,” Liu said. “If nothing else, the mere introduction of this bill has got people talking and thinking.”

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