Mayor signs bill that makes looking at devices in crosswalks illegal

Mayor signs bill that makes looking at devices in crosswalks illegal
Published: Jul. 27, 2017 at 2:34 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 27, 2017 at 6:41 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's official. Beginning in October, looking at mobile devices while crossing the street will be illegal.

On Thursday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed into law a bill that bans pedestrians from using cell phones and other electronic devices while crossing the street. The new law goes into effect Oct. 25.

"Sometimes I wish there were laws that we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail. But sometimes we lack common sense," Caldwell said before signing the bill.

The first violation can earn a pedestrian a fine between $15 to $35. Additional violations then raise to $75 to $99. That's lower than the $130 fine for jaywalking.

The measure, known as the electronic devices pedestrian safety bill, was introduced by Councilman Brandon Elefante and aims to increase responsibility of pedestrians while on the road.

"While we have laws in place for our motorists and our bicyclists, now it's a shared responsibility for pedestrians as well, to really pay attention as they cross the street," said Elefante.

Some have called the bill "intrusive" and "another attempt at local government overreach," while supporters feel it is needed to keep pedestrians safe and distraction free.

"We're not out there to look for how many citations we can get," said Capt. Thomas Taflinger of the Honolulu Police Department's traffic division. "We're just out there to make sure everybody's safe."

The bill was supported by high school students, who have grown up with the ubiquitous devices.

"My generation and other generations really don't understand how important it is to pay attention when you're either crossing the street or driving," said Taylor Sayles, a junior at Maryknoll High School.

Other students also got mixed responses from their peers about crossing a street while texting or watching something on their mobile device.

"Is this a law? No? Then why should I care?," Waipahu High School teacher Kel Hirohata said, recounting some of the responses. "Now that it is the law, we're going to have more people, students, listening to what's going on."

Elefante said one of the reasons why the fines are low is because the law is meant as a reminder to be aware when crossing the street. "I believe in the first implementation of it, as the bill comes into effect in October that there will be an education, warning, awareness, before citations are issued," he said.

However, he adds that some people may need more than just a warning.

"Sometimes it may take a citation for someone to really change their behavior."

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