Wednesday, January 26, 2011
NYT:States’ Lawmakers Turn Attention to the Dangers of Distracted Pedestrians
January 25, 2011
By SUSAN SAULNY and MATT RICHTEL
Many joggers don earbuds and listen to music to distract themselves from the rigors of running. But might the Black Eyed Peas or Rihanna distract them so much that they jog into traffic?
That is the theory of several lawmakers pushing the latest generation of legislation dealing with how devices like iPods and cellphones affect traffic safety. The ubiquity of interactive devices has propelled the science of distraction — and now efforts to legislate against it — out of the car and into the exercise routine.
In New York, a bill is pending in the legislature’s transportation committee that would ban the use of mobile phones, iPods or other electronic devices while crossing streets — runners and other exercisers included. Legislation pending in Oregon would restrict bicyclists from using mobile phones and music players, and a Virginia bill would keep such riders from using a “hand-held communication device.”
In California, State Senator Joe Simitian, who led a successful fight to ban motorists from sending text messages and using hand-held phones, has reintroduced a bill that failed last year to fine bicyclists $20 for similar multitasking.
“The big thing has been distracted driving, but now it’s moving into other ways technology can distract you, into everyday things,” said Anne Teigen, a policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks legislative developments.
Exercising in Central Park on Tuesday, Marie Wickham, 56, said she understood what all the fuss was about: “They’re zigging, they’re zagging, they don’t know what’s around them. It can definitely be dangerous.”
But Ms. Wickham added that she would be opposed to any ban of such devices. “I think it’s an infringement on personal rights,” she said. “At some point, we need to take responsibility for our own stupidity.”
Pedestrian fatalities increased slightly for the first time in four years in the first six months of 2010, according to a report released last week by the Governors Highway Safety Association, an organization based in Washington that represents state highway safety agencies.
Among the states, Arizona and Florida had the largest increases in pedestrian fatalities, followed by North Carolina, Oregon and Oklahoma. Nationally, pedestrian traffic fatalities had dropped to 4,091 in 2009 from 4,892 in 2005, the report stated.
“One of the reasons we think the trend may be turning negatively is because of distracted pedestrians,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the safety group.
Click here to continue reading the article.