Evanston, which was a regional leader in banning the use of cellphones while driving, now has a precedent to cite should it choose to go after another peril of modern life — pedestrians who cross the street while staring at their phones.

Honolulu, Hawaii, last week became the first major city to ban “distracted walking.”

The new law in Honolulu still lets pedestrians talk on their cellphone while crossing a street or highway — but bars them from looking at a device — whether its a phone, laptop, tablet, video gaming device or pager.

Lunchtime distraction.

The Hololulu Police Department says it will start issuing citations for violations after a three-month education and warning period. Fines could range from as little as $15 for a first offense to as much as $99 for a third violation within 12 months.

Alderman Jane Grover, who pushed the distracted driving rules earlier this decade, has left the City Council, so another alderman would have to pick up the cause here.

The third of the three people seen staring at a screen while crossing the street during six minutes of observation at Church and Sherman early this afternoon.

After the distracted driving ordinance went into effect in Evanston, police said it contributed to a reduction in the number of traffic accidents in town.

The dangers of texting while walking have been widely reported by publications ranging from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, but until now governments haven’t seen fit to intervene.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Definitely !

    Every day I see at least 10 [people]—usually students crossing the street with their heads ‘in their’ [I could have used another part of the body], even against the light and in the way of on-coming traffic. Then they even look bothered with someone yells at them or a car honks—then they go right back to their device.  It is of course even worse on sidewalks and even stair. Combined with walking on the left or center and not knowing a person or bike is coming on the RIGHT side several taking up the whole sidewalk or someone is trying to get around them—and you have a real mess—danger.

    Of course thieves on the street or CTA cars love those so engrossed with their device that they are easy pickings. What student wants to admit to his parents he was robbed of his device ? They probably say it broke or lost.

    Unfortunately more and more ‘adults’ do the same thing. The only ‘good’ thing you could say is that these Darwin Prize winners are cleaning out the gene pool.

  2. Is it April Fools Day?
    This is really silly to equate distracted walking with distracted driving. It should be obvious to understand why: when you are driving you are operating a heavy chunk of steel going at high velocity which could seriously injure or kill an innocent person.

    The worst thing that can happen to the victim of a distracted pedestrian is that they are bumped into–not a life-threatening situation.

    The city should be doing more to encourage as much walking as possible since it is socially beneficial and a cheap way of moving around that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

    1. If the police can’t or won’t

      If the police can’t or won’t enforce a ban then it’s just another needless law to hold over someone’s head. Gimme a break. Maybe start by arresting drug dealers by the high school. I don’t see anyone in a big rush to take that on.

    2. Distracted Pedestrains

      I believe  the past year or so several pedestians were killed or badly injured when hit by trains while texting or talking and walking

    3. Nope
      “The worst thing that can happen to the victim of a distracted pedestrian is that they are bumped into–not a life-threatening situation.”

      Uh, no its not. The worst thing that can happen is they stray into the street when cars are coming and get killed.

  3. Immediately if not sooner

    Immediately if not sooner with minimum fine $500 for first offense and confiscation of said phone.  Second offense $1,000 fine and lifetime ban on usage.

    Budget problem fixed by November.


    1. distracted walking

      The other factions here…and I see it all them time…is that people looking at their phones, are crossing againt the light, and they don’t see the signal, or care.  It causes cars to stop and wait why they jay-walk across the street.  the other option is them getting hit.    So…who would be to blame if that happened?  the person being oblivious, or the driver who had the right of way?

      1. Bill Nye “the Science Guy” on this

        In his book ‘Everything All at Once” he writes that Pasadena California they put stickers on the payment by the cross walks saying “LOOK UP.””

        Evanston did put stencils “Walk Bikes” on a few downtown side walks but those faded fast and were where the bikers were already speeding along. There are plenty of signs on poles but students must not ‘look up’—or more likely don’t care. Come to think of it they don’t seem to notice “Stop” signs or even electronic traffic signals—given how they walk into traffic and get upset when drivers honk at them.

    2. What employers might [should] say

      Employers or potential employers should tell them:

      1. More than five minutes per day on personal non-business phone call or text, reduces chance of being hired 25%

      2. Walking on a sidewalk while texting or on the phone, reduces chance 50%.

      3. Doing either crossing the street—don’t bother with the resume toss it in the garbage.

      If employees are so fixed to their electronics, they will probably not be good employees, i.e. can’t tell what is important.  Employers can’t face the medical costs of injury.

      As for student, the same applies. Use  of the devices esp. in libraries show they are not focused and dedicated and don’t  know the value of time.  To paraphrase professor Kingsfield in ‘The Paper Chase’ “heres a dime.  Call your mother and tell her you won’t make it as a _____.”

  4. Yeah, that’ll be enforced as

    Yeah, that’ll be enforced as aggressively as the no-bike-riding-on-sidewalks ordinance.

  5. Distracted walking

    Yes is the answer to the headline. But I’m certain some alderman or city official will suggest taking away a  lane of traffic to accomodate these folks.

  6. Honolulu

    If you’ve been to Honolulu and visited Waikiki, you know why they passed the law.  The place is crazy with people and cars.  Evanston, not so much.

  7. Distractions on the street

    I’m less in favor of regulations like these than I am in favor of self-awareness and public service campaigns. Texting while walking presents some obvious problems. Not as much as earbuds in both ears, while walking, biking, anything-ing that moves in the public way. At least texters can hear when someone yells, “Car! “On your left!” Or “the sky is falling.”

  8. Text and walking

    I have seen people do some dumb stuff like texting rolling blading and wearing a head sets while walking against a light. I feel sorry for anyone who hits one of these people endangering their own lives.

    1. Consequences for others
      Think of the emotional scares on the drivers or bikers who hit those “in the Matrix” while crossing streets. Think of the time wasted in them having to go to court and deal with lawyers who want to put the blame on them. Think of the accidents [damage/injury] caused by drivers who swerve to miss those crossing with electronics.

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