Distracted Walkers or Distracted Driver?
For many people, cellphones are an extension of their body, and walking while texting has become commonplace. This seemingly simple act however, is not without its dangers. The dangers became even more salient and exacerbated when the “Pokeman Go” video game reached it’s height of popularity.
Heightened focus on your phone reduces awareness of your surroundings. In a 2004 press release, Dr. Dietrich Jehle a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo in New opined, “When texting, you’re not as in control with the complex actions of walking”.
Recent studies indicate that the number of accidents involving distracted pedestrians are rising. Researchers at The Ohio State University say an estimated 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using cell phones while walking. In 2005 such incidents reports were less than half, despite pedestrian injuries decreasing overall.
One thing is certain: smartphones are here to stay. So, what is being done to reduce injuries? Some jurisdictions are passing bills imposing fines on pedestrian texters. More particularly, Honolulu Hawaii passed the “zombie law” – the law imposes fines to a maximum of $35 for first time distracted walking offenders.
There are talks of Toronto politicians proposing a bill modeled after Honolulu’s. The purpose of this bill, first of all is just to raise awareness”, says MPP Yvan Baker.
But is Baker correct? Does pointing the finger on pedestrians create an unfair onus of responsibility?
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a report in 2016 that states that “there are no studies showing a direct link between the behavioural effects of distraction and pedestrian crash risk.” Toronto Police Constable Clint Stibbe also recently told the Globe and Mail that he was ‘not aware of any pedestrian fatalities that could be attributed to the victim using a phone during his five years as traffic service spokesman.’
“The issue is poor driving habits and the lack of enforcement of that,” transportation critic, Cheri DiNovo, according to the Globe. “Most pedestrians that have been killed on the road have been seniors. You know, seniors are not known for talking on their cellphones, walking across the street.”
Some pedestrians do engage in dangerous behaviour, like jaywalking or running into traffic to cross a street, but these activities are already illegal and punishable by law. An individual who crosses according to existing traffic laws has the right of way, whether or not they’re using their phone.
“We should teach our children to make eye contact with turning drivers and be aware of whether cars actually stop before venturing in front of them, and to keep their eyes up,” wrote the Toronto Star’s Edward Keenan in a column criticizing the proposed law. “But we should teach our lawmakers to keep their eyes on the things that will actually make the roads safer and eliminate the vast majority of accidents – such as intersection and road design, speed limits, and driver behaviour.”
If you or a member of your family has suffered injuries from a car accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Nanda & Associate today to find out how we can help. Our team is dedicated to providing leading legal expertise that will help you access compensation and begin your recovery process.