Sunday, March 27, 2016

At what point do you make yourself a hazard


Because when you become a hazard, to yourself and/or to others, the state usually finds a need to legislate that hazard. And the latest need to rear its head is walking. Specifically walking while texting or otherwise distracting yourself to the point that you don't know where you are or where you are going.
Experts say distracted walking is a growing problem around the world as people of all ages become more dependent on electronic devices for personal and professional matters.

Experts also note that pedestrian deaths have been rising in recent years. Eleven percent of all fatalities in 2005 involved pedestrians, but that figure rose to 15 percent in 2014.

The rise in deaths coincides with states introducing bills that target pedestrians and/or bicyclists. For instance, a bill pending in Hawaii would fine someone $250 for crossing the street with an electronic device. In recent years, similar bills have failed in states including Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada and New York.

“Thus far, no states have enacted a law specifically targeting distracted bicyclists or pedestrians,” said Douglas Shinkle, transportation program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. But he added that “a few states continue to introduce legislation every year.”

The measure recently introduced by General Assembly member Pamela Lampitt (D) would ban walking while texting and bar pedestrians on public roads from using electronic communication devices that are not hands-free. Violators would face fines of up to $50, 15 days imprisonment or both, which is the same penalty as jaywalking.

Half of the fine would be used to pay for safety education about the dangers of walking and texting, Lampitt said.
Some of us might say that this is passing up an opportunity to hand out some much needed Darwin Awards. Another issue is finding police who will take the time to enforce such a small offence, perhaps a repurposing of Meter Maids could solve this. But do we really need the state holding our hands this tightly?

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