HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There is a ban to prevent distracted driving on Oahu, but now distracted pedestrians could also face fines. A bill introduced at the city council on Wednesday would make it illegal to hold a cell phone or other mobile electronic device when crossing a street or highway. Emergency responders would be exempt from the ban. Bill 43 extends the city's ordinance affecting drivers and mobile electronic devices. City councilmember Ann Kobayashi introduced the measure to curb distracted pedestrians and bicyclists.
"By the definitions that are in the ordinance itself, that would mean that if you're holding the device and crossing the street, whether it be a laptop computer a Kindle, an iPad or cellular phone, you would be in violation of this law," said Maj. Kurt Kendro of the Honolulu Police Department.
Five pedestrians have been killed on Oahu's roadways this year. Kendro spoke out against the measure and said it could water down the existing ban for drivers. Police officers issued 2,371 mobile electronic device citations in 2010. They've given out 2,679 so far this year.
"We think it's a little bit overbroad and not needed. There are sections in existing law about pedestrians' rights and duties when crossing the street," Kendro said.
A couple of residents also testified at the city council meeting.
"I'm in support of Bill 43 just because as a new driver I guess that it makes me feel safer knowing that the pedestrians won't be like texting while crossing the street," said Ewa Beach resident Kristi Fuchikami.
"Are we going to be allowed to read books and magazines later on? Are you going to take that away from us, too? Why do you try to control our lives like this?" said Makiki resident Bob Keating.
The bill does not include a specific fine for violators. Critics are raising questions about enforcement and any potential cost.
"Everyone is yelling and screaming about the budget and you guys are talking about crossing a crosswalk with a cell phone in your hand. I mean, come on. Where's the common sense around here? This is ridiculous," said Keating.
The bill passed its first reading.