If someone asked if you knew what constituted an “E-device law,” one common answer might involve a discussion of an Illinois statute that requires drivers to use a cell phone only through use of a hands-free program. However, a growing number of cities throughout the United States are expanding these laws to pedestrians as well as drivers by making it illegal for pedestrians to cross the street while looking at the screen of their cell phone, tablet, or other electronic device.
Helping Keep Pedestrians Safe
Over the past few years, more municipalities across the country, as well as around the world, are taking steps to protect pedestrians who become distracted by their handheld electronic devices. Most recently, Honolulu, Hawaii became the largest U.S. city to pass such a law.
Honolulu enacted its Distracted Walking Law on July 6th, 2017, in response to the increasingly high rate of pedestrians being hit by cars. The only exception to the law would be if the user were dialing 911 to report an emergency requiring a police, fire department, or emergency medical response. Fines for violating the law increase exponentially with each subsequent offense.
Similar laws have been passed or are currently receiving consideration in other jurisdictions, including:
• Stamford, CT, is considering a law that would make it illegal to cross a street while texting.
• A recent survey reported that as many as two-thirds of Canadian citizens favored some measure of distracted walking laws in their city.
• A New Jersey proposal that would outlaw texting while walking in a roadway includes a 15-day jail term as one possible punishment.
What About Illinois?
At this time, there is no law that prohibits pedestrians from simultaneously using a handheld device while crossing a street on the books in Illinois. In fact, Illinois is one of the states that failed in an attempt to pass legislation that would control distracted walking.
However, the city of Chicago is considering a distracted walking ordinance that could result in fines as high as $500 for pedestrians who cross city streets while talking or texting on a cell phone. Ticketing would be left to the discretion of police.
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