Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) November 15, 2018 – Two Chicago aldermen proposed a measure that would fine pedestrians for using their cellphones while crossing a street. If passed, individuals could face fines ranging from $90 to $500 for talking or texting on a mobile device as they walk across an intersection.
The ordinance would not apply to emergency personnel or police officers who are “on duty and acting in their official capacities.” People who use their cellphones to call 911 would also be exempted. The proposal follows similar measures that were passed in Honolulu, Hawaii and San Mateo, California.
“Mutual responsibility should be at the forefront when considering ways to keep drivers and pedestrians safe on the road,” said Paul Greenberg, an attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. “Rather than penalizing individuals for using their cell phones while crossing a street, both pedestrians and drivers should be encouraged to avoid distractions when on the road.”
Aldermen Anthony Beale and Edward Burke introduced the ordinance during a City Council meeting. Burke described it as a way “to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries” while Beale said it aims to “increase safety by eliminating distractions for pedestrians.”
The aldermen did not present any statistics on the number of pedestrian accidents in Chicago that involved cellphone use. However, they shared World Health Organization (WHO) data that said individuals who text while walking are “nearly four times more likely to engage in at least one dangerous action” such as failing to watch for turning vehicles or jaywalking.
City transportation officials were critical of the measure and voiced their opposition. Chicago Deputy Transportation Commissioner Luann Hamilton argued that there are no statistics that indicate distracted walking correlates to a rise in pedestrian fatalities. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel adopted a neutral stance, saying he needed time to consider the ordinance.
Ron Burke, the executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA), called the proposal to fine pedestrians “misdirected.” He urged the City Council to focus instead on the Vision Zero Fund to improve pedestrian safety with better-lit crosswalks, narrower streets to slow down motorists and targeted enforcement to reduce pedestrian accidents.
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