Below is a summary of a discussion from the January 16 Maplewood Township Committee meeting about the possible creation of an ordinance to be discussed by the Township’s Public Safety Committee regarding pedestrians’ responsibilities when walking in the street and looking at their mobile devices. The proposed new ordinance would allow police to ticket pedestrians for looking at mobile devices while crossing a street.
The summary was provided by Township Committee member Nancy Adams:
Pedestrian Safety Discussion Item
Township Committeewoman Nancy Adams introduced for discussion creating an ordinance to ticket pedestrians who step into the street looking at mobile devices. Citing Honolulu’s recent new law, Ms. Adams pointed out that, according to a survey released in 2017 by the Governors Highway Safety Association, being a pedestrian is becoming more dangerous and it’s probably pedestrians’ fault. The reason?
Cellphones and alcohol.
Almost 6,000 pedestrians were fatally struck in 2016, up from closer to 5,300 in 2015 and less than 5,000 in 2014. Although traffic volume increased by only 6% from 2010-2015, the number of pedestrian deaths increased by 25%.
The report showed that pedestrian deaths increased from 11 in 2010 and 15% in 2015, while 74% of all accidents occurred at night. Many factors are to blame for pedestrian fatalities, but the study suggested that the growing use of smartphones while walking and driving are thought to be to blame for the growing fatality rate.
Alcohol is also to blame, with 34% of pedestrians killed having had alcohol present in their bloodstream. Very few pedestrian/vehicular crashes were a result of vehicular speeding, even though speeding is commonly thought to be the problem.
As Maplewood already has laws prohibiting drivers from using mobile devices while driving, but doesn’t have any ordinance of the same type for pedestrians. Ms. Adams stated how important it is for both drivers and pedestrians to act responsively in order to increase pedestrian safety. While a pedestrian does have the right of way in a crosswalk, Ms. Adams stated the importance of making eye contact with the driver of a car coming; making sure they are not distracted, and ensuring that they see you and are slowing down.
Township Committeeman Frank McGehee pointed out that Acting Police Chief Jim DeVaul has brought up the idea of giving commuters reflective armbands to use when walking to or from the train in the dark, but McGehee added that the importance of being aware while walking, and not looking at a mobile device cannot be understated and supported Ms. Adams’ initiative.
The issue will go to the Public Safety Committee for discussion and to get input from Maplewood’s emergency responders.