A new bill in Nevada would make it illegal for pedestrians to text, enter data, or otherwise read information on their cell phone while in the process of crossing a street.
The bill, introduced by Democratic Las Vegas Assemblyman Harvey Munford on Thursday aims to reduce the number of accidents occurring as a result of pedestrians not paying attention to their surroundings. However, unlike texting while driving, it’s hard to make a compelling argument that someone properly using a crosswalk while operating a cell phone poses any sort of serious safety risk.
This past year the city of Fort Lee, New Jersey made headlines when it instituted a “Texting While Walking Ban.” Ultimately (despite numerous reports to the contrary) the city was really only cracking down on people who were jaywalking; many of which happened to be using cell phones at the time. Now, Nevada’s proposed bill seeks to penalize pedestrians for texting, even if they’re crossing the street legally and using a traffic signal or crosswalk.
According to the bill, first time offenders would be given a written warning while second and third offenders would be ticketed for $100 and $250 fines.
While it’s easy to make a strong argument in favor of cracking down on jaywalking, especially since nearly 80% of pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersections, it’s a lot harder to prove there’s a major safety risk for someone actively using a crosswalk while looking at their phone. Even if the pedestrian isn’t paying attention at all, it seems like any potentially dangerous scenario would have to be the result of a driver failing to properly yield.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate on deterring jaywalking and enforcing existing pedestrian laws instead of pushing through additional (and possibly useless) legislation?
I might be way off in my assessment, but pedestrians crossing the street legally (even if distracted) don’t seem like much of a threat to public safety. It might be annoying when someone bumps into you at a busy crosswalk because their face is buried in a cell phone, but it’s hardly on par with an auto accident caused by a driver who was distractedly texting.
What do you think? Would Nevada’s proposed bill have a positive impact on pedestrian safety or is it failing to identify the real problem?