Editorial: Should Pedestrians Be ‘Fined’ for Distracted Walking?


*Yesterday, a woman from Portland told me there are a high number of pedestrian deaths by train due to folks looking at their cellphones while crossing the tracks. It would’ve been harder to believe had I not just saved at least a dozen or more folks from being hit by a blaring fire truck as they crossed the street near The Americana in Glendale, California the day before.

I had heard the loud sirens coming from the fire trucks just as I stepped into the street. Knowing all too well that they could just appear at any time, I ran across the street. But once I reached the safety of the sidewalk I looked back and saw hordes of people walking, lackadaisy, with their heads looking down at their cellphones, as they crossed.

Many of them looked like tourists from other countries, but there were some natives in the mix too.

Horrified, I screamed “R-U-N as the firetruck came blazing down the street at a speed I knew would be unable to stop, by the time it reached the crowd.

Everyone looked up from their phones, and as if coming out of a daze, started running towards the sidewalk.

It’s as if they thought, and drivers will be able to relate to this, “we have the right of way. It will stop for us.”

WTF has happened to us? What could be that damned important that we are unable to cross a street, or drive a car, without looking down at our cellphones? 


I kid you not, I am not exaggerating when I question how many lives were saved that day.

Hey, I’m no saint. We’ve all done some pretty dumb stuff, and had some pretty close calls. Things like hurrying up to beat that red light; making a U-turn in the middle of the street. You know, regular stupid driver sh*t.

But crossing the street and not looking where you are going because you are texting?

Nuh-uh. The message can wait.


Alan S. Hilibrand of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons calls these people “Digital deadwalkers.” In an article for The Washington Post he says, “We’ve had people come into the emergency room who were hit by cars,” he said. “They’re looking at their phone and not paying attention to the fact that a vehicle is making a turn.”

The Portland woman admitted to me her own indiscretion; for which now she says was a wake-up call. She said once she stepped onto the street with her headphones blaring, and she didn’t even hear the approaching ambulance.

Thankfully, she looked up in time. She and I both agreed that one close call was enough to set us both straight.

So I wonder what it would take to get people to take their lives more seriously?


According to an article in Safety.com:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), claims nearly 5,000 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 76,000 injured in traffic collisions in the United States in 2012. That’s one death every 2 hours and an injury every 7 minutes. While it’s not clear how many of these are a direct result of distracted walking, the total rate of pedestrian fatalities compared to overall road deaths is getting worse each year.

Two years ago, an article in Time Magazine entitled “Your Texting Addiction is Starting to Cost the Government” talks about real life incidents that occurred while texting and walking. Many of us have heard these stories on social media.

The article begins…

The stories sound like jokes with the same punch line: Why did the man almost walk into a bear? Why did the woman tumble into a fountain? Why did the tourist fall off a pier? Because they were so engrossed in their phones that they had ceased paying attention to their surroundings. Yes, all those things actually happened. And apparently the man, the woman and the tourist are in good company.

The same article sites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as reporting one death every two hours involving pedestrians in traffic collisions brought on by distracted texting.

It goes on to show how many states have exhausted themselves trying to “alert” pedestrians. But surprisingly, none seem willing to get serious about holding pedestrians accountable.

“I notice it when I’m driving, people texting away on that phone. As soon as school is dismissed, students are out the door and the first thing they’re doing is pulling out their phones. I see it when I’m driving up and down where the resorts are on the Strip,” Munford says. “It’s like a drug. People are addicted to it,” says Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford, who, in 2013, tried to influence lawmakers to pass laws making texting while crossing a highway a crime.

The Bill fell flat. Never even made it out of committee.

It got tied up in bullshit. Focusing on what level of texting while crossing is illegal: “talking? texting? just glancing to see who called?—and which roads would be affected—just highways? boulevards? two-lane streets?—as well as how a law might affect liability in accidents.”

I wonder how many pedestrians died while these questions were being considered.

It’s amazing the level of handholding cities such as San Francisco, Delaware, Maryland and even tough-as-nails New York has done in their attempts to bring awareness to pedestrians about saving their own lives. Campaigns such as the Bay Areas “Be Nice, Look Twice”,  Delaware’s plastering “Look up” stickers on sidewalks, Maryland’s partnership with a children’s organization for a “Moment of Silence” in honor of the issue.

Still…nothing has changed. The problem is STILL a problem.

So I ask the question, will a hit in the pocket make any difference. I know that a ticket will get my attention; because ignoring it only escalates the cost. And I’d rather spend my money elsewhere.

Utah tried it.

The Utah Transit Authority charged a civil fine of $50 to anyone distracted while crossing their light rail tracks. This included talking, texting, cellphones and headphones. And the agency proposed that the lawmakers make it a violation of state law.

They said no.

Their reasoning being, “You can’t legislate [not being] stupid,” State Rep. Craig Frank told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “This is way out of bounds. I’m surprised we have the guts to look at stuff like this.”

But I have a feeling if enough states stepped up, justifications like Mr. Frank’s wouldn’t hold much water.

How many more people have to die because of their own addictions. Drugs we can’t always help, but cellphones?

C’mon. We’re better than this.

Aren’t we?

Talk to me in the comments section…please.

I am DeBorah B. Pryor, and I approve this message.

3 thoughts on “Editorial: Should Pedestrians Be ‘Fined’ for Distracted Walking?”

  1. They should only be fined if they cause others harm or inconvenience. If they only get themselves obliterated by trucks, trains, ect., then all is good.

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