Monday, May 14, 2012

Fines for Texting While Walking

This is an old article from July 2011 but I first saw it this morning. What do you think of this?

I understand the whole idea of preventative measures, but imagine if every state/province/etc put in a law like this, 'distracted walking'....?

I think it goes over the top. Several years ago I was walking while texting and found myself off the sidewalk and crossing a street without realizing it. It scared the crap out of me and it hasnt happened since. It takes me forever to send a text while walking because I look up every other second. If a police officer sees me walking to work this morning and sending a text, should I get a fine for it? Perhaps the officer would use their judgement and decide I was careful and not give me a fine, but maybe the law would say 'anyone caught texting while walking will be fined' and he/she would just go with that. Who knows...When I am more careful than many people (or perhaps most?) now? I had my incident, I learned from it, no one got hurt - but I could end up with a fine one day if the law went in where I live. Ridiculous.

There seems to be so much 'pre-emptive' measure-taking these days, a person could be fined when they have never actually done anything wrong before. They haven't injured themselves or others while being stupid, they have not caused an accident, they can be healthy and strong and barely cost a dime to 'The System', yet they could be fined left and right for various things these days. Because NOT doing something wrong is now considered 'doing something wrong'. You can be driving to work and take a sip of coffee and get a fine for Distracted Driving. You could walk down the street and send a quick text to your teenager because you forgot to tell them something when you left the house and get fined. You could stand 8.5 feet away from a doorway instead of 9.0 feet and have a smoke, and end up with a fine. What did you actually do 'wrong'? And in my province now, you could be 18 years old and driving along with your 15 year old brother, both of you smoking, and both could end up with fines. The 15 yr old for smoking under age (okay, it's a controlled substance, I get that), but the 18 year old could be fined for smoking in the car with a person under the age of 16 - even though THAT person was smoking too. Oh fun. You can also get a fine for NOT being over the legal limit for alcohol in my province and others, if you are between .05 and .08 when you get stopped. You are not over the legal drunk driver limit, but you go home with a fine and your car impounded, and no license for about 3 days. NOT doing something wrong is now 'doing something wrong'.


The onus is that *some* people engaging in these activities *might* end up causing harm to someone that *may* cost The System money. Usually it's the health care system. The big giant black hole that so many countries are involved in and are having a hard time funding, so they look for more cash. The rest is the emergency services funding. If you do cause an accident, police fire and ambulance have to come out, and that costs $$$$$. If you or someone else ends up hurt, the hospital becomes involved and again, that costs $$$$$. Where will they get this money? It's obviously not enough to just fine people who actually DO cause a problem, because really, even though it gets a lot of media attention, it's still a relatively small number of people who cause accidents while eating, drinking, texting, or driving between .05 and .08. Traffic accidents seem to have gone DOWN per capita over the decades (NOT due to these laws because they are all fairly new), but these fines are put in place regardless. And they are applied to EVERYONE, not just those who cause accidents or other harm.

So what is the point other than to attempt to control people in their every day lives more and more? And to attempt to pull a few more bucks into The System? Is it worth it? How much money did/does it cost to set up these laws, spread the word, pay committees and panels to hash out the details, etc? And how much difference do these laws really make? I still see people talking on the phone, holding it up to their ear with their hand, every single solitary day - despite the law going in about 2 years ago or so. I still see people smoking in their cars with their children. I'm sure people are still driving after having a couple drinks and are over the .05 pre-limit. What it has seemed to do is just cause more people who have never done anything else wrong to get fined and get their names put in the police computers.

And a lot of people SUPPORT this. That's how I came across the news article link from the Guardian - from a friend who posted it saying they hope it will start happening in their country. I have been alive almost 40 years and I was bumped into, knocked over or out of the way, and in fact even injured by other Walkers - longgggggg before the existence of cell phones. I have been crashed into by giggling girls at the mall, grumpy German shoppers when I lived in Germany in the early 90s (that's when I was injured, by an elderly german woman ramming me with her shopping cart. She kept going by the way, acting annoyed that I stopped to check on my bleeding heel), and by tourists taking photos or carting around their giant video cameras and not watching where they were going, by cyclists, etc etc etc. Now suddenly the cell phone becomes the target and the people can be fined, and other people are calling for this to happen and support it. It baffles my mind. Truly.

So I could come up on 10 years since I started using a cell phone and texting, without causing harm or injury to myself or anyone else, but I could wind up with a fine. That's nice. Perhaps they could have started off with fining people who did cause some sort of accident, or were viewed crossing a street while cars careened around them to avoid hitting them, narrowly missing causing an accident, and fine them. But nope. That's too hard, maybe even discriminatory, and doesn't help much with the cost to the emergency services and health care systems - so let's just fine everyone in sight. Maybe we should fine those old people driving along in their motorized scooters while we are at it. Who cares if it makes them feel independent and lets them live their lives with a bit more pride - they are dangerous. I have been run into by them twice in the past. Perhaps we should also fine people who take their kids on a family bike ride. Those little kids weave back and forth all over the place and mom and dad cannot grab them cos they are high up on a bike too, and they might cause an accident one of these days! And the kids who ride their bikes on the paths to the park! That has got to stop. I've seen them plow right through a man trying to walk his dog on a leash and half strangling the dog as they blow right through. Their parents should be fined. Bikes should not even be allowed on the paths at all - not even with special paint marking off a cycle lane cos one of those people *might* veer off the path and hurt a pedestrian. Maybe we should fine parents who are walking their toddlers and babies in strollers and not watching where they are going because they are looking down at baby or fixing their hat or passing them a bottle. That could be dangerous one of these days - so I think we should fine them too. In case you didn't catch it - I am being sarcastic.

If you think that these laws could work and help the situation - just go sit by a school zone one of these days. Hang out at school in or out time and stick around for an hour. See how many traffic violations you can count - and I mean Old School traffic laws, not just the new ones. I would wager a bet that every day I see at least one car go illegally through a cross walk or speed through a school zone. The school is less than a block from my house and my middle child attends there, so believe me, I have a lot of experience with watching people violate simple and long-standing, concrete traffic laws. Every single day. So how is adding even more new things to the list going to help? It's silly and ridiculous and it seems that people who have never caused a problem are the ones who end up with the fines.

And one final thought - whatever happened to looking after your own self and your own family? I was walking with my 21 yr old step daughter not long back and she wandered across the cross walk without even looking and I said 'HEY! I dont feel like watching you get smashed by a car today, thank you very much!'. She was looking down at her ever-present phone of course. She is also pregnant so I was extra p-o'd about her wandering silliness. But I didnt' think 'well maybe the cops should fine her for this, that'll stop her'. Bah! Another day while walking with my daughter's friends, their big sis (12) was with us too and she wandered across the road and people's lawns while her face was stuck in her phone. I said 'Do you know how silly you look standing on that guy's lawn and you didn't even notice?'. She looked up and was bewildered how she got so far away from us. I said 'I saw a 14 yr old walk right across the main road not long back and she didnt even know she had done it til she got to the  middle and looked around in shock. I would rather not find out from your sister that you were hit by a car for the same thing, or you just look like a big dumb dork that everyone laughs at while you are wandering around like that'. She blushed, looked around, and finished her text while standing still.... I doubt my words stuck but maybe they helped. But a fine wouldnt stick either, would it? So what's the point? I got a ticket for drinking underage - $150!! That was a huge pile of money for a 17 yr old in 1991! But guess what? I was drinking in the same park the very next weekend. Cos I was an idiot :) But the point is, the fine did nothing to stop me and it's not doing much to stop everyone today either. It's just more money piling into the system from our pockets, through fines but also through how much it surely costs to set these things up in the first place. The ideas, the debates, the fact checking, more debates, committees, overseers, law writers and checkers, posters, ads, bulletins, enforcement, and on and on and on. I would wager another bet - that it costs far more to put these laws in place than it actually saves via prevention and fine collection.

Just something to think about.



  2. Yes I have seen the vid of the woman falling into a fountain many times lately. It's hilariously stupid. But I am not sure what you mean by posting the link - that people should be fined for such elicit behaviour, or not?

    Most accidents are entirely preventable. Whether you are walking along and not paying attention and have no phone or anything else in your hand, or you are wiping out while texting. Or while talking to your friend who is right beside you (google videos of people walking into poles and such and you will find tons that were taken long before the invention of the cellphone). Or other types of accidents - I was walking down a snowy sidewalk last winter and did not see a man hole that was embedded in the sidewalk, and I turned my ankle into it hard and ended up with my first real sprain. It hurt like hell. But I was not on my cell phone, I just forgot it was there even though I have walked that same path every morning. Perhaps I should have received a fine for forgetfulness when I sought medical treatment, in order to pay back some of my cost to the medical system?

    Watching America's Funniest Home Videos will give you a lot of fodder for video proof of people being stupid, and that show has been running for a very long time, again before cell phones were common place.

    My reason for posting this is to ask how far we should go for fining people for their actions. What will the next thing be? There are often accidents involving people wearing improper footwear such as flip flops or high heels that get caught on the gas or brake pedals - perhaps anyone found driving without good sturdy footwear should be fined.



These are my views and opinions. If you don't agree or think I am sadly misguided, that is your view. Feel free to share your thoughts but I also reserve my right to moderate content (IE foul language, excessive flaming, etc).