We have all seen the funny videos of pedestrians walking into telephone poles and other miscellaneous items while they stare down at their cellphone. However, sometimes this mindless walking is a real danger, such as when a pedestrian does not see a vehicle heading straight toward them. Connecticut has realized the risk, and that is why lawmakers are considering a new bill that would make distracted walking against the law.
“It is important that pedestrians understand that they have been debating bills like this in the legislature for nearly two years now,” says Peter Bowman of Billings, Barrett, and Bowman, LLC. “More likely than not, the law will be passed at some point. If it is, and a pedestrian is hit, it could affect a personal injury case if the pedestrian is partly at fault.”
Some lawmakers say that the bill is only encouraging people to use their own common sense. Critics of the bill on the other hand, state that it is not up to legislators to determine what one person’s common sense is. Still, others were not convinced the bill was necessary when it was first introduced. This was the case for Representative Roland Lemar, who has now done an about-face on the bill and is currently supporting it.
One of the biggest issues in the General Assembly has been whether or not the law would be enforced. After all, Connecticut has had distracted driving laws on the books for years now, and it is still not enforced as much as lawmakers would like. The worry is that the same law for pedestrians would also lack enforcement and so legislators would really be passing bills for the sake of passing them.
If it is enforced, the penalty is not very steep. Pedestrians would receive a warning the first time they were caught crossing the street while looking at a cellphone. For subsequent offenses, they would be looking at a fine of $20.
If the bill does pass in Connecticut, it will be the first state to have such laws.
While some cities in the country, such as Honolulu, have enacted distracted walking laws, there is no state that has statewide legislation on the subject.