ALBANY — Children are often told to look both ways before crossing the street, but the New York State Legislature may soon make it illegal to look down at your phone at the same time.
A bill seeks to restrict the use of an electronic device while crossing a crosswalk. While it provides an exemption for those who use hand-free headsets, anyone caught without one would be issued a summons and forced to pay a $25 first-time fine. Repeat offenders could see fines up to $250.
The memo in support of the bill cites the increasing dependency on mobile phones and states that "the uses of such devices are not only unsafe for the people engaged in them, but are unsafe for drivers and for bystanders waiting to cross the street."
It adds that "nationally, pedestrian fatalities account for about 12 percent of overall traffic deaths, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, with a rapid increase in 2010 after a four-year steady decline."
The legislation includes all "portable electronic devices," which means not just cellphones but laptops, pagers and gaming devices would be under the law. There would be an exemption, however, for emergencies, including contacting a doctor, hospital or police and fire departments.
"Distracted walking" has been recently added to the National Safety Council's major concerns. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that nearly 6,000 pedestrians were struck and killed by motor vehicles in 2017, equaling numbers from 2016.