Hawaii becomes the first place to make texting while crossing the road illegal

Hawaii becomes the first place to make texting while crossing the road illegal

There is a special circle of hell reserved for people who use their phones while walking.

Not for the sensible ones who send a quick "be there in five" text once they know they're on a quiet bit of the sidewalk, but for the zombies who decide to shuffle across the street at half a mile an hour while updating their Facebook statuses - all the while oblivious to the cars that have had to slam on the breaks in order to avoid turning them into road jam.

Thankfully, Honolulu has recognised the severity of the problem, and has become the first major US city to put a ban on texting and walking.

The law has been introduced in an attempt to cut down on accidents caused by distracted phone-users, and anyone who breaks it could be subjected to a hefty fine.

As of October 25th, pedestrians in the Hawaii state capital could be slapped with a fine of up to $99 if they are caught using their cell phones while crossing the street. To some, this may seem pretty harsh, but the maximum penalty will only be issued if the offender has been caught before - and first time walk-texters will only be charged $15 for their wrongdoings.

The "distracted pedestrian law" was announced last week by the city Mayor, Kirk Caldwell, who reiterated the importance of road safety for both drivers and pedestrians.

When the legislation was first passed back in July, Caldwell implied that it was a last-resort attempt to rectify the situation in Honolulu, which has "the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the county."

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

According to a study published by the University of Maryland in 2015, more than 11,000 injuries were caused as a direct result of phone-related distractions in the USA between 2000 and 2011. Considering that - since then - phone usage has only become more prevalent, it's safe to assume that those numbers have only increased in more recent years.

Indeed, pedestrian fatalities in the US between 2015 and 2016 rose by nine per cent to 5,987, making last year's death toll the highest rate since 1990. Of course, not all of these incidents can be attributed to phone usage, but the spike in fatalities does seem to correlate with a greater number of people having constant access to their smartphones.

But not everyone is happy about the new law.

Ben Robinson, a resident of Honolulu, wrote to the city council in order to express his disdain for the new regulations, arguing that they intrude on personal freedom. “Scrap this intrusive bill, provide more education to citizens about responsible electronics usage, and allow law enforcement to focus on larger issues," he said.

While it may seem unfair that police have the right to punish somebody for phone usage, the law is already widely in place across the globe for drivers - and it's done far more good than harm. Pedestrians in the street are just as at-risk as drivers, so it seems sensible to extend the rule to all road-users.

Hopefully, the law will have a positive effect on the city, and we will begin to see it introduced in other large urban areas very soon.