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Heads up! City bans pedestrians from texting while crossing streets

Pedestrians use their smartphones as they walk across a road in Chongqing, China.
Pedestrians use their smartphones as they walk across a road in Chongqing, China. Stringer

HONOLULU is believed to be the first city in the world to ban pedestrians from texting or looking at their phones while crossing a street.

And other countries around the world are said to be considering the same law as pedestrian deaths continue to rise.

Police in some Australians states can issue fines to pedestrians if they are deemed to be walking "without consideration to other roads users”, but to date there is no specific offence for phone use while crossing a road.

In Australia, pedestrians account for 12.9 per cent of all road deaths, according to the latest national data to the end of September 2017.

The number of pedestrian fatalities in Australia over the 12 months to the end of September is 160 - down from 174 for the same period the year before.

However, the latest national pedestrian fatality figures are higher than they were for the same period five years ago (151 deaths).

In Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii, police can issue fines of $US35 for "viewing electronic devices while crossing streets in the city and surrounding county”.

The law comes into force tomorrow.

While other counties in the US have tried to ban phone use when pedestrians cross the road, the Honolulu law is said to be the first regulation enforceable by fines.

"This is really milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety,” Brandon Elefante, the City Council member who proposed the bill, told the New York Times.

In the United States, pedestrian deaths in 2016 rose by 9 per cent from the year before - to 5987 fatalities, the highest toll on American roads since 1990, the New York Times reported.

According to a report by the World Health Organisation, pedestrians who text and walk are almost four times as likely to "engage in at least one dangerous action”, such as not looking both ways.

Distracted people also take 18 per cent more time to cross a road than undistracted pedestrians, the report claimed.

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise. Is phone distraction a major contributor?
Pedestrian deaths are on the rise. Is phone distraction a major contributor? AntonioGuillem

News Corp Australia has contacted police departments in each state and territory to find out if there are currently any laws that fine pedestrians distracted by their phones.

South Australia lists a fine for "walking without care or consideration”. "A person must not walk without due care or attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road”. In South Australia the fine for this breach is $108.

Tasmania police says: "There is no specific offence for distracted pedestrians, including pedestrians distracted by mobile phones. However, there are a variety of pedestrian traffic offences that a person may commit as a consequence of being distracted (e.g. walking against a don't walk light) and they could be prosecuted for those”.

ACT Police says pedestrians "must not stay on the road longer than necessary to cross the road safely”.

A statement from Victoria Police says: "In Victoria there is no specific fine for a pedestrian who may be distracted by their mobile phone, however a pedestrian who is on their phone at the time of crossing the road and fails to obey the traffic lights or walks improperly on the road and lingers for longer than is necessary, may be issued with a penalty notice”.

Police in West Australia say they do not currently have any fines or laws relating to "distracted” pedestrians.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

Topics:  cars news joshua dowling motoring new laws pedestrian pedestrian crossing pedestrian death smartphone



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