/ Technology

Is it practical to ban pedestrians from using mobiles?

Example of the Email 'n' Walk iPhone app

Should texting be banned in public? It’s quite an extreme view but it’s one that Carl Kruger, a New York State Senator, holds. And he’d like to see a $100 fine imposed upon anyone breaking this proposed change in the law.

Why? Well he thinks it’s dangerous.

There’s been plenty of news in recent years about the dangers of using a mobile phone when driving, but not as a pedestrian. Yet those walking while using their mobile phones might be putting themselves at risk.

When talking on the phone, only half a mind’s on what’s around you – add listening to headphones and staring at a screen into the mix, and your senses become even more limited.

The difficulties of multimedia multitasking

I don’t agree with Carl Kruger that the act should be outlawed, but I can see his concern. I walk to work on a daily basis – a walk that takes me around 45 minutes. When people ask me why I don’t listen to music during the walk, I reply that it’s because I prefer to have my wits about me.

I also struggle to text when walking. Reading a text is about the extent to which my multitasking capabilities stretch. Recently Patrick Steen asked whether we needed voice recognition to reduce accidents when texting, after research presented at the British Science Festival suggested that as many as one in ten Brits had fallen foul to accidents when texting. And a story in the Mirror three years ago claimed that six million of us had walked into lamp posts during the act.

Other than voice recognition, another possible solution is the use of the Email ‘n’ Walk iPhone app that turns your phone transparent. It does this by rendering what the camera sees on the screen beneath the text, which might prevent a few collisions.

Would a ban make us more sociable?

So far we’ve only looked at the safety issues, which are inarguably the most important, but what of courtesy to others? How many times has a person chatting on their phone got in your way? And what of the irritating noise escaping through badly-fitting headphones on the train? Suddenly personal media isn’t quite so personal.

People often ask why such offenders need to play their music so loud, and the answer is usually because the headphones they’re using are so poor at keeping out other noise – such as traffic.

But it’s the people who don’t use headphones at all that bother me most, and instead play music directly through the tinny speakers on their phones or MP3 players. It’s rarely the music that offends me, per se, but instead the intolerable audio quality.

So while I’m not in the same camp as Carl Kruger, who believes users should be fined for using their phones while walking, I would like to see more caution and courtesy exercised when using personal devices in public.


Is it practical? No
Is it fair to punish the majority for the indiscretions of a minority? No

With most police forces losing a large percentage of their people, creating extra little laws like this will not be enforceable.
An example of this is the creation of a new law to ban mobile phone use whilst driving. There was already a law for that…. Driving without due care and attention. Politicians though had to be seen to be “doing something” when in fact there should be laws against having too many children in your car, passengers talking, changing the radio, turning on the air con….. all which distract the driver just as much as a telephone call.

Stop creating laws for the sake of it, is what I say 🙂

I don’t think the politicians were wrong in any way – They simply want to make it clear to the average intellectually challenged driver who was also irresponsible and careless – that mobile phones specifically are NOT to be used in moving cars –

Even now many do not obey the specific law about phones when the law is directly targeted at mobile phone users.- I see them daily. A specific law is far clearer than a non specific one – also easier to prosecute that defy the law..

Will it be practical to stop pedestrians – No – unless motion detection is incorporated in the design of the mobiles . And that is cloud cuckoo land – though I would like it to be so.

For your information you can be arrested for having too many children in your car – just as you can be arrested for having too many passengers in your car.

Phil says:
8 February 2011

Using GPS it should be possible to make a mobile phone that can’t be used whilst it’s in motion which would have the added advantage of not annoying every other passenger on trains, buses etc.

I sometimes wonder whether a code of etiquette will develop for the use of portable phones in public places. I assume people using theirs in the street must have something rather important to say, and it cannot possibly be a private conversation, so I get as close to them as possible so I can hear the latest news. Occasionally it disappoints, however, although in the supermarket I have often picked up a serving suggestion or been reminded to get some biscuits. I am completely incapable of multi-tasking, and usually forget to take a phone with me anyway, but when I ask people if I can borrow their phone so I can call home and see what was on the shopping list I detect an unpleasant side to their behaviour that was not obvious from their animated phone conversation just moments previously. As you say, so little courtesy, so impolite. As to the hazards on the street, I bump into telephonists all the time and I realise how annoying it must be for them to have someone like me twirling around and going backwards and forwards across their path because I am so disorganised. But before I can utter a rapid “sorry” they are off without so much as a “good-bye”. The youth of today! . . . No manners!.

Pickle says:
9 February 2011

How daft can you get? If someone walks into a lamppost while mobile phonng – well that’s their fault!! It really gets my goat when people are on the phone in enclosed spaces – very annoying to others and often judging by their conversations puerile – often you wonder why they phone at all.

These lamposts, stairs and traffic may help to eliminate those who feel the need for constant communication. Natural selection!

The trouble is they also walk into the road without looking – causing accidents

They also walk straight across busy junctions into flowing traffic. They are so focused on the phone that they have no idea where they are walking.

Peter says:
10 February 2011

The existing laws regarding cyclists on pavements are not enforced, so it is totally impractical to impose a ban on pedestrians using mobile phones.

I am registered blind and use a white cane. Pedestrians texting frequently walk into me on pavements and pedestrian areas. This also includes mothers texting with one hand and pushing a pushchair with the other. They walk along texting, not looking where they are going, expecting others to get out of their way without any consideration to other pedestrians. They should use what sight they have got and not walk into those who are less able. I do not use a white cane for fun, it is to assist me in getting around and an indication to others that I have limited sight.

Maya Gordon says:
16 February 2011

This also includes mothers texting with one hand and pushing a pushchair with the other. They walk along texting, not looking where they are going, expecting others to get out of their way without any consideration to other pedestrians.

[Message from Moderators: Hi Maya, just removed the link you included as it does not appear to be related to your comment. Thanks.]

Chris says:
3 March 2011

Jeeze – is Carl living in the real world. Doesnt the US have bigger issues than txting walkers ?

Damn Young says:
18 July 2011

You bet it does Chris, Texting Skateboarders.

Stepine says:
17 March 2015

Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007.