Honolulu bans texting while crossing the street

HONOLULU (KHON) — A popular tourist destination became the first major city in the United States to ban texting while crossing the street.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed a bill into law Thursday that makes it illegal for pedestrians to look at electronic devices while crossing the street.

Honolulu police officers have 90 days starting Thursday to educate the public about the new rule.

Some of the electronic devices that are included under the new law: cell phones, text messaging devices, laptops, video games, even cameras.

Pedestrians can listen to music on a device and talk on their cell phone if they are not looking down at the device.

“You talking on your phone, you still have visibility. You can be aware of your surroundings,” said Capt. Thomas Taflinger with HPD’s Traffic Division. “I was always taught keep your head on a swivel, so if you are on your phone or not, you can be aware of your surroundings.”

As for informing visitors of the new law, “especially in the Waikiki area, we do have a community policing team in the district,” Taflinger said. “In this three-month period before the law goes into effect, we will be sure to have officers out there and spreading the word.”

First-time violators can receive a fine from $15-$35. The range goes up to $35-$75 for the second offense, and $75-$99 if a pedestrian is caught breaking the law a third time within one year after the first infraction.

“This law is not intended to go out here and punish people. This law is just to curb bad behavior,” Taflinger said.

Residents have mixed feelings about the new law.

“I’m fine with that, because it seems like a lot of cars don’t pay attention and people, when they walk, they don’t pay attention either, and when they are on their phone, it gets worse,” said Honolulu resident Phuong Young.

“I don’t know if it should be a law that you can’t use your phone, because it is your phone,” said Kaneohe resident Sandra Hirooka. “I like the freedom of using my phone whenever I want to.”

Taflinger says bicyclists using the road need to follow traffic rules, like all drivers.

“Bicyclists, when they are crossing the road, they are required to get off their bikes and walk their bikes, so then the pedestrian laws apply when they are walking their bicycles across the street,” Taflinger said.

The law does have exceptions. Pedestrians are allowed to use your electronic device while contacting 911.

On-duty emergency responders are also allowed to view their electronic devices if the situation calls for it.

The law goes into effect Oct. 25.

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