Lawmakers in New York City are going to great lengths to ensure pedestrians keep their heads out of their phones while doing the dangerous deed of crossing the street.
Last week, State Senator John Liu introduced a bill seeking to ban pedestrians from using cellphones and other handheld electronic devices while crossing the road. If the bill passes and a pedestrian is caught texting and walking they could face fines between $25 to $250. According to CNN, the statewide ban would include texting, checking emails, and browsing the internet.
"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, which is an updated version of a similar bill introduced in 2018, must be approved by the transportation committees in both the Assembly and the Senate before it can be introduced for a vote by lawmakers. However, Sen. Tim Kennedy, the chair of the Senate Transport Committee, told CNN he has serious doubts about whether this really could become law.
"I don't support the concept in its current form," Kennedy told 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."
But, Liu explained, even getting the word out about pedestrian safety has still made all his hard work worth it.
"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."
Though the bill may seem frivolous it really could end up saving lives. As CNN further noted, a 2019 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2018. The report noted that a “large growth in smartphone use" could have contributed to the massive uptick in pedestrian deaths.
So, next time you’re in the crosswalk look up. It could save your life, or at least it could save you a bit of money in future fines.