MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Maplewood Township Committee member Nancy Adams raised the public safety issue of pedestrians texting while walking in a crosswalk at the last Township Committee (TC) meeting on Jan. 16.
Adams has proposed fining residents who use hand-held electronic devices while seeking to cross or walk in a crosswalk, citing a similar law approved in 2017 by the city of Honolulu, HI.
“There’s an equal responsibility to the pedestrians,” she said during comments about pedestrian safety issues. “It is vitally important for pedestrians … common sense says you have to have eye contact with the driver, make sure that they see you. I would like the Township Committee to consider a similar ordinance to Honolulu.”
That ordinance, approved by the Hawaiian capital city in July 2017, states that “no pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.”
It exempts the use of such devices for 911 calls and by emergency responders who are in the act of aiding an emergency.
Honolulu fines pedestrians $15 for the first offense, up to $35 for a second offense, $75 for third offense and possibly up to $99 beyond that.
“As pedestrian safety has been on the forefront of many of our minds I did a little research,” Adams added, citing “a 2016 report of the Governor Highway Safety Association (that) showed pedestrian deaths as a total of all traffic fatalities have increased from 11 percent in 2010 to 15% in 2015.”
She added that “The study suggests that the growing use of smartphones while walking and while driving are thought to be to blame for the growing fatality rate.”
TC Member Greg Lembrich, who chairs the township’s public safety committee, suggested the idea be reviewed by that committee next. He said the public safety committee is set to meet on Feb. 14. The next TC meeting is Feb. 6.
“We are considering this because we are concerned about the pedestrian safety of our residents and we want our residents to be safe,” TC Member Frank McGehee said. “And be cognizant of their own safety.”
McGehee said the police department is already preparing to hand out free reflective bands for commuters and pedestrians.”
“I’ve been guilty of it myself,“ Adams said about the texting and walking. “I’m anxious to hear what the public safety committee has to say about it.”