Earlier this year, a pilot project in the Netherlands set out to tackle “distracted walking” with eye-catching crosswalk lights. But a new ordinance in Honolulu is addressing the same problem from an entirely different angle: fines.
Starting in late October, pedestrians walking across Honolulu’s roads will be subject to fines for just looking at their phones. First-time offenders will face a maximum fine of $35, with the amount increasing up to $99 after a third offense. This will be the first punishment of its kind in the country.
The ordinance also appears to be part of a growing trend of pedestrian-shaming campaigns in U.S. cities, which blame walkers for the rise in pedestrian deaths by citing activities like jaywalking, wearing dark clothing, and smartphone use. The dangers of smartphone use by pedestrians is understudied, but presumably not as fatal as distracted driving.
"Sometimes I wish there were laws we did not have to pass, that perhaps common sense would prevail," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell at a bill-signing ceremony. "But sometimes we lack common sense."
The initiative was proposed by a group of safety-minded high-schoolers who created the ordinance after conducting research on pedestrian safety.