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There is some weird silliness going on across North America as cities are increasingly pointing to pedestrians as being responsible for being struck, injured and killed by cars. In Seattle where laws have finally caught up with the 21st century and you can no longer talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time there was an immediate reaction to also start finger-pointing at the pedestrians. And that did not stop, with several articles coming forward stating quite simply that an alarming increase of 11 per cent in pedestrian deaths in 2015-2016  may not be  “solely due to distracted walking, but it certainly is a contributor.”

Even Seattle’s Vision Zero is being questioned, because while the City’s 3,000 annual crashes are caused by distracted driving, impairment, speeding and failure to yield to a pedestrian,”there is little to no mention of pedestrians failing to obey the rules or simply pay attention.”  

Given this finger-pointing, it should be no surprise that Honolulu stepped in with a brand new by-law that means pedestrians can’t look at a cell phone and cross the street. And here’s the strange part-the Mayor actually believes this will lower the city’s very high pedestrian fatality rate. No one looked at  slowing cars, or better road design, or longer pedestrian crossing times, all proven to lower pedestrian fatalities. Once more, motordom reigns supreme, “perpetuating the media-driven myth that pedestrians are responsible for their own deaths.”

Driver distraction has increased by 300 per cent as a cause of pedestrian fatalities and accidents in the United States, with 70 per cent of pedestrian injuries occurring while a driver was using a cell phone. Drivers are allowed to use cell phones in every state, although some require headsets. The Governors Highway Safety Association’s recent report notes that  “74 percent of pedestrian deaths occur in the dark, which suggests visibility, road design, and driver focus would have played a bigger role than pedestrian distraction. Furthermore, 15 percent of pedestrians were killed by drunk drivers, and more than one-third of pedestrian fatalities were themselves over the legal limit to drive.

So how why did Honolulu adopt the pedestrian not looking at a cell phone law? It appears that one city councillor “got the idea from talking to high schoolers who were worried about their friends wandering into the street.”  There’s no data behind it.

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