Crossing the street? Whatever you do, don't look at your phone

Crossing the street? Whatever you do, don't look at your phone: The absurdity of the new law
Published: Oct. 24, 2017 at 5:27 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 25, 2017 at 6:14 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Wednesday, pedestrians could be fined for crossing a street on Oahu while looking at a cell phone or other electronic device.

City officials say Honolulu is the first major city in the nation to enact this type of ban.

The new law not only applies to cell phones, but video games and tablets.

"We've heard everything. We heard some unhappy comments but most people realize it is a problem," said Sgt. James Shyer, of the Honolulu Police Department.

Police say they spent the last three months educating the public about the fines and the dangers of distracted pedestrians. The law does allow pedestrians to talk on their cell phones while crossing the street.

"For obvious reasons, your eyes aren't where they're supposed to be and it puts everyone at risk. Just looking down for one text, you can have your eyes off the road for five seconds," said Shyer.

The first violation can earn a walker 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 push some of the responsibility for pedestrian safety to those who are crossing roadways.

"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," Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in July, after signing the bill into law.

Some have called the bill intrusive and another attempt at local government overreach, but others say it's needed to keep pedestrians distraction free.

"It can be very frustrating, especially if you're the driver and you see somebody walking very slow because they're on the phone texting," said resident Lisa Alexander.

Resident Peter Dietrich added, "I think it's a great idea. You see a lot of people kind of in outer space walking through crosswalks. It'll be hard to enforce, but I think it's going to be a good thing."

The National Safety Council has backed the measure, saying it could save lives.

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