Nanny State: More Politicians Against Pedestrians Listening To Headphones Or Texting

from the why-don't-we-just-ban-moving dept

Four years ago, we wrote about some of the first attempts to ban using mobile phones or digital music players while crossing the street. Most of the bans simply focused on making it illegal to either text, talk into a mobile phone or have headphones on while in a crosswalk. Apparently, a bunch of local politicians are now pushing similar laws for both pedestrians and cyclists.

In California, State Sen. Joe Simitian has reintroduced a bill that would fine cyclists $20 for texting. In Oregon, State Rep. Michael Schaufler wants to fine cyclists $90 for wearing headphones or earbuds. In Virginia, lawmakers are considering whether to broaden such a ban to include any handheld communication device.

And in New York, a bill before the legislature’s transportation committee would ban the use of electronic devices while crossing streets. This is the second time State Sen. Carl Kruger has introduced this legislation to stem what he calls “tuning in and tuning out.”

It’s become so ridiculous, that one Arkansas state senator actually wanted to outlaw pedestrians from wearing headphones in both ears while on a street or sidewalk. The ridicule over that proposal, at least, caused the sponsor of the bill to drop it. However, it seems that many politicians are jumping on this kind of nanny state bandwagon, often citing claims that pedestrian accidents increased for the first time in four years in the first half of 2010. Of course, there could be plenty of reasons why that happened that have little to do with headphone usage (after all, it’s not like there was a sudden influx of new headphone wearing pedestrians last year). On top of that, though, isn’t education a better solution than outright bans?

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Nanny State: More Politicians Against Pedestrians Listening To Headphones Or Texting”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Well now if we’re going to a Nanny state, I wanna know who is in charge of giving out lunch money to those legislatures. I would like to talk to that Nanny about a reduction in their lunch money so they can’t go to the candy store so often when it comes to spending money while making bills. It’s hazardous to the nation’s financial health.

Bet you ain’t gonna hear about that one…

Atkray (profile) says:

These laws are sorely needed.

While people walking out in front of a school bus and ending their miserable existence can be argued to be a net good for society, the unintended consequences, especially the psychological trauma to the children on said bus, demand swift and universal implementation, and zealous enforcement of these laws.


Matt (profile) says:


Not hearing what’s going on around you is only limiting one of your senses. If you’re not paying attention and/or not looking, you’re ignoring basic survival instincts, in which case, good luck. I’m more weary of driveways than street crossings.

~ When I went to school, we were taught to look all ways before crossing a street. Didn’t matter if we were listening or not. ~

Anonymous Coward says:

Admissions from an unconventional doughnut lover

Perhaps I am being slightly naive, but this seems to be yet an additional fine illustration of Government meeting the needs of its taxpaying citizens.

I await the day when those elected advocate enactment of a statute that renders it illegal to sucking the custard out of a Berliner doughnut. Then, and only then, can I stand up and say “Guilty, Your Honour” with the level of conceited vain that you all have come to love.

AR (profile) says:

Re: Re: In other news.

No, deaf people cant cross streets, blind people cant walk the streets, and people in wheelchairs, on crutches, or other physical impairments should be scrutinized because they cant jump out of the way fast enough. Its for their own good you know. If they cant look out for their own safety, we are obligated to do it for them. Just lock them in a room so they cant harm themselves or others.

Yes, this is sarcasm reflecting the idiocies of our gov. and society.

Kiwini says:

Willful lack of situational awareness

I say: let them do as they please. These idiots who insist on being in public while only being aware of what’s going on between their earbuds will be removed from the gene pool that much sooner. On a good day, that’ll happen BEFORE they have a chance to breed.

Darwin needs help, and these self-involved wankers are happily stepping up to the plate as volunteers.

Adam says:

Regardless of how silly this is, it’s incredibly shortsighted. Technology continues to advance; wireless earbuds will become more popular and get smaller. Then tiny devices we can stick behind our ears, and/or implants… how do they think they’re going to legislate that?

Lawmakers should be required to read Snow Crash and The Diamond Age before trying coming up with tech laws that will be nearly instantly obsolete.

bdhoro (profile) says:

Before banning head phones...

Ummm… hearing isn’t a prerequisite for being allowed to cross the street.

Shouldn’t we do hearing tests on all pedestrians to make sure they can hear at all if its so important?

You don’t even need to pass a hearing test in order to get a driver’s licence.

And isn’t walking around bumping into things and looking silly punishment enough for the text-walkers?

MissingFrame says:

Politicians aren't some mythical beast

This is something at least as old as Walkmans and there were probably laws about reading newspapers while driving stagecoaches. Politicians are elected, chances are these have been elected by idiots who believe in these sorts of laws. I cringe every time someone blames “politicians” as often as I cringe when someone blames “technology”.

BTW, “Isn’t education a better solution than outright bans?” is a great question, but education is considered a cost and fines are an income, we don’t hear a lot of public outcry for the government to spend more money.

RikuoAmero (profile) says:

I read a book while out walking. In fact last week, I went on a nine hour walk. I read my book while walking, put it down while waiting to cross a road, and read it again while I continued walking. I’ve mastered the art of paying attention to the sounds around me, and of peripheral vision. Oh, and of knowing every square inch of my area, so then I don’t need to look every second.
Wanna know how much this law being talked about helped? Diddly Squat! If I do hurt myself, well, I have only myself to blame. Having a law there won’t stop me from hurting myself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Those who follow professional cycling are aware that people who choose the sport as a livelihood rely on earbuds, music, and such are instrumental in the sport. It’s like telling a plumber that they can’t use a wrench.

To regulate something as absurd as this will ultimately have effects on “The Tour Of California” as well as many cycling clubs (both professional and amateur).

I recall a large tourism advertising effort which included Professional Bodybuilder and outgoing Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger which featured a professional cyclists going rogue and using said headphones–

So within time, Sen. Joe Simitian will probably also work to outlaw pencil usage on the golf course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who is regulating the regulators?

Somewhat related…

I don’t know if you saw the recent news about the FCIC’s recent 500 page publication or read punters cardinal synopsis, but both are definitely good reads.

For those not too keen on spending a week plowing through the tautological version, this good Irish Man, who was apparently affected by Ireland’s Banking Crisis has some good insight-

So while we scrutinize the ability of cyclists and pedestrians to operate such machinery, I also encourage we have stricter leash laws designed for the populace that have retractable leashes while walking pets.

For example, retractable leashes should be restricted to non-trophy-wifes, wifes who have no immediate family holding public servant positions. Additionally, people using retractable leashes should not also operate telephone or electronic devices until they are aware of the effects of using the two in a combined manner.

AR (profile) says:

What, did you get a new hood ornament recently?

Actually I partially agree with you. BUT, the reason some want earbuds banned is to take responsibility off of themselves. an example: If someone wearing earbuds is in a crosswalk, a driver, late for work, runs the light and hits them. they can then say it wasnt their fault. It was the pedestrians fault for not hearing them coming and not jumping out of their way.

Kind of like seatbelt laws. if you are not wearing one and someone hits you, its automatically your fault. Even if you are parked in a parking lot.

You know how lawyers twist things.

Benjamin (profile) says:

I remember when this came up a little more than a year ago in Brooklyn. A headphone-wearing pedestrian was hit and killed while crossing the street.

I thought then, and I think now that we should ask how many pedestrians are killed every year while NOT wearing headphones/earbuds. I’d be willing to bet that if we look at the numbers, those iPods will start to look like safety devices. Where’s Apple’s marketing department on this issue?

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"..Politicians Against Pedestrians Listening To Headphones Or Texting"

If a pedestrian or cyclist wants to risk being nominated for The Darwin Awards, then that’s their own personal choice. Me? I prefer music at a reasonable volume when cycling. Just be aware of your environment, that’s all. So if any of this utter nonsense somehow becomes law, then this would be one of the few laws I would take great pleasure in breaking. ;P

Not an electronic Rodent says:

Its me! I'm the guilty one your honour.

Yes it’s true, I’m the criminal, the dangerous
loose cannon on the streets. I’ve been wantonly wearing earphones both walking and on a bike since the early 80’s when I got my first Walkman. It’s a miracle I’m alive really. How did I manage such an amazing feat you may ask?

Well it turns out that there’s this invention called Eyes(tm). Get a pair (don’t get just the one – it’s an option but limits functionality), I thoroughly recommend them. Though it’s true their use can prove tricky for some I’ve always found them a godsend. Eyes(tm) work over quite some distance – further in fact in a straight line than the mandated Ears(tm) and even a novice user can easily identify hazards in the field of vision. Eyes(tm) are stereoscopic and with practice allow you to judge the distance of an object enhancing he hazard detecting functionality.

I know doubters will say that Ears(tm) offer constant 360 degree coverage, which is true. However, in most outlets Eyes(tm) come with a free add-on called Neck(tm). Using both in tandem allows Eyes(tm) a far wider coverage (there is also the optional Waist(tm) but many consider this overkill).

If you wish to try these fantastic products please be aware of the following recommended method of use: While travelling, use Eyes(tm) in General Scanning Mode along desired path of motion to identify potential hazards. It is advised you occasionally use Neck(tm) for wider coverage. When approaching an identified area, switch Eyes(tm) to their enhanced PayingCloseAttention mode and use Neck(tm) extensively. With proper use you will be fully satisfied with your journey and may even find ehnacements over Ears(tm) such as the SilentCycle Detection(r) mode.

This advertisment was brought to you by Eyes Ltd. a wholly owned subsidiary of BloodyStupidLaws Inc. (

ComputerAddict (profile) says:


I am 100% in support of this new ban. I am sick and tired of Scraping and squeegeeing these people’s bodies off my truck. Yea, Darwin and natural selection is a good thing, but having to buff out an ear mark in my hood every weekend gets kinda old. Not to mention the earbuds themselves can leave scratches. I’m with Rob, Lets put out some body catching fountain’s or leave a few manhole covers off, people fall in, crack their head open and then are conveniently washed down to a central treatment plant for disposal.

Ohh yea almost forgot.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...