A New Bill Could Make Texting While Crossing the Street Illegal in New York

Pedestrians would face a fine for using phones while crossing

Look before you cross
Look before you cross
John Tuesday/Unsplash

You may soon be legally obligated to look up from your phone — at least when you’re crossing the street in Brooklyn. 

The New York State Senate has introduced a new bill that seeks to outlaw texting while crossing the street, the New York Post reported. Under the new law, pedestrians in the state could face a $25-50 fine for their first offense, and up to a $250 penalty for repeat offenses.

The new legislation would reportedly extend to all portable electronic devices, including handheld gaming systems. The law would provide exceptions for emergency correspondence, and would also include exemptions for police and firefighters on the job.

Lawmakers are attempting to crack down on the behavior after the National Safety Council identified “distracted walking” as a major concern last year. According to a 2017 Governors Highway Safety Association report, 6,000 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle accidents that year, with particularly high rates among children and adolescents.

“Walking and texting at the same time is most common to do, and it definitely can be dangerous if you aren’t careful,” said the bill memo sponsored by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and Senator John Liu. “The reason is simple; it takes away your ability to be alert. Over the last few years, smartphones have become a societal norm between teens and adults, statistics of accidents have skyrocketed.”

Ortiz first proposed the bill last year, but it didn’t make it past committee. The bill has since resumed momentum after John Liu picked it up in the Senate.

“I have been receiving so many complaints from people saying, ‘Please ban text messaging when people are crossing,’” Ortiz said.

Some of those inclined toward the bill include cab drivers, who can face fines for stopping at a green light due to a distracted pedestrian.

“There will be a green light and people will still be texting in the middle of the street,” cab driver Carlos Rodriguez told the Post.

Not all residents are thrilled by the proposed measure, however.

“What a dumb proposal,” one pedestrian told the outlet. “I’m still going to text while crossing.”

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