No Music For You: Kobayashi’s Bill to Ban Electronic Devices in Crosswalks

by Staff on May 15, 2011

Are pedestrians the problem?

Listening to your favorite workout music mix while jogging may be the motivation you need to burn a few extra calories.  But if Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi has her way, it may also earn you a fine.

Kobayashi introduced Bill 43 – a ban on the use of electronic devices while crossing the street – as an addition to the current state law that prohibits drivers from using or holding an electronic device while operating a vehicle.  And, in spite of the absurdity of placing drivers operating automobiles weighing an average of a couple to several tons to pedestrians simply walking or jogging, Honolulu City Council actually approved the measure, moving it on to the next step.  The bill will now go before the council Safety Committee.

Due to the wording of the current law that applies to drivers, if Bill 43 is passed, any pedestrian crossing the street – lawfully in a marked crosswalk or otherwise – could be fined for just holding an iPod or cell phone, even if they are not using it.  And if pedestrians are banned from even holding electronic devices while crossing the street, what about the coffee you are drinking or Spam musubi you are eating while crossing?  Will Kobayashi ban those too?  And if pedestrians are banned from listening to their iPods while crossing the street, shall we pass a law to ban the use of radios in all automobiles?  Where will it stop?

With 20 pedestrian deaths in 2011 and five already on record this year, a concern for driver and pedestrian safety is understandable.  But Kobayashi has taken it too far and has yet to provide evidence that any of the pedestrian deaths reported in Hawaii were caused by the use of electronic devices on the part of the pedestrian.

Even the Honolulu Police Department described the measure as “overbroad” and gave testimony in opposition to it.

Rather than insulting pedestrians by assuming they are all incapable of walking and talking, texting, or listening, perhaps Kobayashi should consider the real problems that together are a deadly combination: jaywalkers and careless drivers.

The truth is if a pedestrian is lawfully crossing in a crosswalk, it shouldn’t matter if they are texting, talking, jogging or otherwise.  But if they are crossing illegally, whether in an undesignated area of the street or when the crosswalk signal indicates it is unsafe to cross, then they should expect the consequences, which may be as extreme as injury or as simple as a fine.  Rather than pushing for absurd and unnecessary legislation such as Bill 43, Kobayashi should be encouraging the enforcement of the sensible laws – such as jaywalking laws and the cell phone ban as it applies to drivers – that were put in place to prevent deaths and keep the streets safe for pedestrians, with or without electronic devices.

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