New York lawmakers propose ban on texting while crossing the street

Repeat offenders within an 18-month period could be fined up to $250 dollars.
Image: Texting and walking in NY may get you a fine
A pedestrian checks her smartphone while crossing a Fifth Avenue intersection in New York on Feb. 25, 2016.Richard Levine / Corbis via Getty Images file

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By Doha Madani

New York State Senate has introduced a bill to its transportation committee that would ban texting while walking through a crosswalk.

Senate Bill S5746 was proposed last week by Democratic State Sen. John Liu, whose district covers a portion of northern Queens in New York City. The bill would making crossing a roadway while using a portable electronic device an offense punishable by a fine.

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Someone guilty of looking down at their phone or tablet while crossing the street could be fined between $25 to $50 on a first offense. Repeat offenders within an 18-month period could be fined up to $250 dollars.

A version of the same bill was introduced by a Brooklyn assemblyman in January, but it stayed in the lower house's committee and hasn't moved since its referral five months ago.

The bill goes beyond just texting to include playing games, sending emails, taking photos and searching the internet. The legislation does, however, make special note of the dangers of texting while walking.

"It has been proven that distraction from texting while walking can cause pedestrians to cross roads very unsafely," the bill states. "Not only can trips and falls occur, but even getting hit is more than just a possibility."

Pedestrian fatalities rose 46 percent between 2009 and 2016, according to the National Safety Council.

The Governors Highway Safety Association found that nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed by crashes in 2017. The associations cited one of the factors contributing to the deaths as the growth in smartphone use across the country.