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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Texting bans expand

I’ve read of pedestrian accidents caused by texting while walking.  The reports range from people who bump into sign or light poles to those who lose their lives crossing paths with automobiles.  In fact, there was a ten percent spike in pedestrian fatalities during the first six months of the year, representing the largest increase in such deaths in four decades.

Besides reading accident reports, I’ve personally encountered pedestrians and bicyclists who are too engrossed in phone activity to afford attention to traffic.  Also, readers have relayed sightings of phone-related-mishaps including one of a bicyclist rear-ending a pickup truck.

While moving, it’s ill-advised to text, check social websites, internet surf or play games with eyes focused on phone screens   It’s quite safe when sitting still, but if driving an automobile, riding a bike, or walking, it makes sense to have eyes scanning for upcoming hazards.

Several studies confirm that people who use their phones while they are in motion have slower reaction times and pay infrequent attention to their surroundings.  The problem exists worldwide, evidenced by London’s experimentation with padding lamp posts to soften striking blows for distracted walkers.  Last year, the city of Augsburg, Germany embedded traffic signals into the ground near tram tracks to help downward-fixated pedestrians avoid potential injury.

Hawaii’s largest city has just taken the problem of so-called “smartphone zombies” very seriously.  Honolulu is now the first major U.S. city to pass legislation aimed at reducing injuries and deaths from distracted walking.

Honolulu’s law banning pedestrians from looking at mobile phones or texting while crossing the street will go into effect this October.  Other cities around the world are also considering ways to protect phone-enamored pedestrians and bicyclists from being injured by stepping into traffic or running into stationary objects.

Beginning October 25th, Honolulu pedestrians can be fined between $15 and $99, depending on the number of times police catch them looking at a phone or device as they cross the street.  According to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, “We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalk than almost any other city in the county.”

There have been more than 1,000 injuries per year attributed to phone-related distraction while walking in the United States since the year 2000, with the tally rising each year.


Findings from various studies have prompted the non-profit National Safety Council to add “distracted walking” to its annual compilation of the biggest risks for unintentional injuries and deaths in the U.S.  “Cell phones are not just pervading our roadways but pervading our sidewalks too,” noted Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the council.

While some persist in multi-tasking, studies confirm that the human brain has evolved to only be able to adequately focus attention on one task at a time.  The result is what scientists call “inattentive blindness,” making it impossible to text, talk, play video games, et cetera while walking and devote full attention to both tasks.

Current trends indicate that the number of pedestrians injured via phone-related distraction could double over the next few years.  The way to avoid being part of that forecast is to simply avoid using your cell phone while walking — focus on getting from point to point and check in with your phone apps once you’ve arrived safely.

Consider the potential mayhem when a texting walker meets up with a texting driver!

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at