Smartphone Zombies- How to stop this addiction

FILE PHOTO: A woman uses a mobile device while working out in San Francisco Imagine going out to the store to buy some groceries and all you have is your cell phone. You then receive a text message from a friend and you can’t resist the urge but to look at your phone while crossing the street. You’re not paying attention to your surroundings and don’t see an oncoming car speeding down the road. The driver of the car is also on his phone, texting, while going 40mph on a 25mph road and is not weary of other pedestrians crossing. You cross on the “don’t walk” sign because you’re too attached to texting and at the very last minute the driver rams his breaks to come to a complete stop, nearly causing an accident. The both of you are shaken up after the incident, but luckily no one was hurt after both parties were careless in their decisions and didn’t take heed of the consequences when breaking the law. Who would you blame in this situation? Who’s at fault? I argue that the driver was at fault in this scenario because they’re supposed to heed to the pedestrians and pay attention while driving; however, the person using their phone while crossing the street is also to blame due to reckless endangerment.

The use of electronic devices while in crosswalks has become a big issue for Hawaii, causing Mayor Kirk Caldwell to sign a bill making it illegal for pedestrians to use their phones while walking. We need to be good law-abiding citizens and lead by example in hopes that the mainland would take this law into consideration. However, I feel that this law won’t really work because people will still be using their devices while crossing the street, oblivious to oncoming cars and what’s going on around them.

This law will go into effect in October and people caught texting while crossing the street will be fined $35-$99. City Lab author Laura Bliss quotes “Nationwide, the number of pedestrians killed in traffic has been climbing year over year, with an 11 percent spike in 2016″ while other cities such as LA and NY have been strict on jaywalking. Each of us are guilty of this offense at some point and walking directly into traffic, so with this new law going into effect, it will help pedestrians and drivers to be more cautious. Don’t tell me everyone is innocent because we ALL broke the law at some point and while some of us were lucky to not get caught, the others had to face the consequences of their actions. We need to stop using our phones while walking into an intersection because it’s not worth getting hurt or killed, nothing is more important than our lives. Given that Honolulu is the first to pass this law, other cities better start following us and take into consideration the consequences of ignoring this rule.

Jorge Milian of the My Palm Beach Post states “An epidemic of distracted walking leading to growing numbers of injuries and death has swept across not only Honolulu but the entire country as well. And distracted crashes are happening in Florida far more often than in other states” so we need to heed this warning as a wake-up call. It’s common sense to not look at our devices while crossing the street, but sometimes we can’t resist the urge to text or play games on our phones. I can understand if people pulled over to use their phones, but don’t use it while driving because not only is it dangerous, it shows stupidity as well. Eric Johnson states in his article “In Germany, the city of Augsburg last year embedded traffic signals into the ground near tram tracks to help downward-fixated pedestrians avoid injury, local media reported.” This is a great solution to lessen fatalities and help pedestrians cross the road safely, so listen up Hawaii! This could prove useful us and other parts of the country as well. If Germany did this to help downward-fixated pedestrians, I can see it being applied to Hawaii as well. Since we have some “stubborn” people here, this is a perfect example of how embedding traffic signals will help fix people’s heads from going into a downward spiral.

Stephano Hatfield gives examples of how not paying attention while crossing the street can cause road rage as stated “a pedestrian engrossed in his phone was about to reach the pavement’s edge a few metres ahead of my car. ‘Surely he’s going to stop, surely he’s going to stop, Surely… Stop! Oh S***!’” Bob Waterhouse also gives a good example of why people rather look at their phones instead of being cautious of their environment as he quotes “Then, there are the geniuses who, while cycling one handed through traffic, talk and text on their cellphones, oblivious to the vehicles around them. Clearly posting on Instagram about coffee at Starbucks is more important to them than road safety.” Going on Facebook to post a status update or uploading pictures on Instagram while crossing the street is NOT a good idea, so I argue for people to put their phones away while on the road. It won’t kill you to not look at your phone for a few minutes.

These examples are geared more towards young adults than older adults because college students are more susceptible of falling into this trap. According to Telegram.com “A fraction of just 1 percent of Massachusetts intersections – 496 with at least five pedestrian accidents – accounted for about 14 percent of all pedestrian accidents in the state.” We don’t need these numbers in Hawaii, so we need to cut back on even having cell phones on us, except using them for emergencies.

While I am for this new law, I find it unfair for drivers to be on their phone while driving—I’ve seen many drivers do this—and not get ticketed because they hide their device while no cops are around. According to LocalSYR.com, “High school safety clubs suggested the idea and did studies on pedestrian safety, said Kel Hirohata, a local high school teacher. He said students foresaw a perfect storm: ‘What if the person that is driving … is looking at their phone and the pedestrian crossing the street is also doing the same thing? Anything can happen” this should raise alarms about the dangers of being distracted while using electronic devices, for both the pedestrian and driver. To answer the question above, I think that both parties are at fault, though I would blame the driver more than the pedestrian because pedestrians always have the right of way when crossing the street and drivers need to yield to them. I don’t care if people have different views than me, all I’m saying is that the driver is more at fault of causing an accident than the pedestrian. If a driver is distracted by their phone while going 25mph on a busy street, they are more likely to cause an accident than someone who is crossing the street while looking at their phone. In my opinion, both parties should be fined the maximum amount of $99 if caught breaking the law and hopefully this will teach people to not make the same mistakes over.

In one article by Heudebourg, it states “Pedestrians can still look at their phones on the curb and won’t be penalized if they are listening to music or talking on the phone as they cross the street, as long as their eyes can stay on the road. Dialing 911 is also permitted mid-crossing” and mentions how police have more than 20,000 tickets for distracted driving last year. Since people are so attached to their phones while using the crosswalk, I feel that signing this law will be a great way to prevent traffic accidents and will serve as the foundation of making our streets a safer place. The KHON team mentions “‘You talking on your phone, you still have visibility. You can be aware of your surroundings,’ said Capt. Thomas Taflinger with HPD’s Traffic Division. ‘I was always taught keep your head on a swivel, so if you are on your phone or not, you can be aware of your surroundings.’ As for informing visitors of the new law, ‘especially in the Waikiki area, we do have a community policing team in the district,’ Taflinger said. ‘In this three-month period before the law goes into effect, we will be sure to have officers out there and spreading the word.’”

Since Honolulu is the first state to put this law into effect, I’m hoping for the other states to follow as well and to inform people about the risks of using cell phones while in a crosswalk. An article by Weil states “But the measure doesn’t just cover cell phones. It also includes other ‘mobile electronic equipment’ such as video games, pagers, laptops, digital cameras and personal digital assistants, according to the bill’s text.” I argue that while this law could help stop traffic accidents from happening, it won’t stop people from obeying the rules. Texting and driving is illegal, yet people are ignorant of this rule and take advantage of it. Texting while walking is no different, some pedestrians will take no heed to this law and put themselves at risk of paying a fine. This isn’t just my opinion, they are facts. I’ve seen many drivers using their cell phones while driving, unaware of the dangers they put themselves and others in–if people are stubborn here, what will banning electronic devices while walking do?

This law should go into effect around the world because there are too many traffic accidents and deaths due to people being distracted on their phones. Even with strict laws saying to not talk on mobile devices while driving, some people are ignorant of this law and end up putting others at risk. Hawaii, we need to lead a good example for the rest of the world and show others that we’re capable of achieving this goal because after all, it’s not worth putting our lives out there over a silly text message.

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4 Responses to “Smartphone Zombies- How to stop this addiction”

  1. Great article! I actually had no idea that Hawaii would be implementing this new law. I think it’s a nice idea, but it sounds like it’d be hard to enforce. Like you said, drivers still text and talk on the phone while driving even with a law in place. Also, now the police need to not only watch out for distracted drivers but distracted pedestrians as well. I think there are just too many factors to watch out for and not enough man power to actually enforce the law. However, I’m not against having it. It’s a good idea and can spread awareness. However, I think even with this law just as many people will continue to text and walk or text and drive. They’ll just be more wary of cops before they do it.

  2. I didn’t Know about this new law being implemented by October. It’s definitely a positive step towards safety between drivers and pedestrians and I hope that it will lower the number of people using their phones when they cross streets. I tend to spend a lot of my day in my car and so I have seen people staring at their phones as they cross the street, like it’s the only thing that matters to them. I really think the idea of embedding traffic signals into the ground is an interesting and innovative idea! it might cost the city and county a lot of money, but maybe just putting them in high foot traffic areas could really improve the safety of the people on the island. I for one am guilty of using my phone a few times while crossing the street but I’ve come to learn it’s better to be aware of everything around me in those situations. This is obviously not going to completely stop people from looking at their phones while crossing the street, but I think it will improve the situation overall. Having police officers enforcing this at stoplights might cause a bit of a ruckus for traffic and what not but we will see how it plays out when October comes around. Great article!!

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