Would a fine stop you from looking at your phone?

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (USA TODAY) — Admit it: You often look at your phone when you cross the street. I do it all the time. I’m sure you do, too.

Should this be an illegal act, such as jaywalking or running a red light?

Reaction has been heating up online to a new law, just signed by the mayor of Honolulu, to ban looking at your cellphone when crossing the street.

Yet it’s still OK to talk on the phone while walking.

“Government should only ban behaviors that threaten other people, like smoking or driving distracted,” Honolulu resident Bryan Mick said on Facebook.

The new law is controversial, but sometimes what starts in Hawaii spreads to the rest of the nation, as with a recent ruling against President Trump’s travel ban.

The question is, does it matter? Can a law banning people from staring at their phone truly be enforced? And will citizens take it seriously when fines start at a paltry $15?

Even after all these years, we still jaywalk. And despite most states banning texting in the car — and 15 states making it illegal to use our phones outside of hands-free mode while driving — how about a reality check. When’s the last time you looked next to you and people didn’t have phones to their ear?

With a new law curbing the use of looking at the cellphone while crossing streets, “I would hope that people would stop, but the likelihood and chances of that will be low until something drastically changes,” says Erik Bull, 22, a student from Denver.

We asked tourists this week about how governments should respond to our worldwide smartphone obsession and the havoc it’s playing with society.

Claire Martin, 23, a student from Texas currently living in Australia, said if law enforcement got serious about enforcing the laws, people would pay attention and change. 

Texting in the car is illegal Down Under, and “nobody even changes the music there, you just don’t do that in Australia, they’re very strict on it,” Martin said.

Our view here is that the law is well intended, but using threats to wean people off their smartphones won't get very far. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back.

And I'm a whole lot more concerned about drivers cruising through intersections while checking their Facebook and texting than I am about a pedestrian checking their phone. The driver has all the power. 

But let’s give Honolulu some respect and admit it — the idea is a noble one. We’re tired of bumping into people on busy streets.

Maybe if we all get sick of it, we'll wake up and opt for a voluntary cellphone time out when crossing. City life is pretty cool to look at, especially in Honolulu with all those amazing palm trees and island architecture, right?

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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