Chicago Considers Another Dumb 'Texting And Walking' Law To Raise Revenue

from the distracted-legislating dept

Since the advent of the smartphone, it seems that every few years or so, one government enttity or another suddenly has the brilliant idea that its constituency ought to have fines levied on them for "distracted walking." This catchall term has a much more specific meaning with in the laws in question: walking and using a phone at the same time. While this nonsense began mostly in foreign countries, there a few states in America that have some flavor of this kind of law on the books.

And now my beloved hometown of Chicago is looking to join the nanny government ranks in the most Chicago way possible: by charging enormous fines for "distracted walking" in a fairly naked attempt to generate revenue for the government.

Aldermen Ed Burke (Ward 14) and Anthony Beale (Ward 9) introduced an ordinance Wednesday aimed at changing pedestrians' bad behavior by fining them if they text or use a mobile device while walking through intersections in Chicago.

The measure proposed by Burke and Beale would fine pedestrians between $90 and $500 for each incident of using a mobile device while crossing a street or highway. The full City Council would have to pass the measure.

There are a myriad of reasons why these laws are silly. Given that we're talking about pedestrians here, it seems clear that these laws are being pitched as an attempt to protect the safety of the very citizens it would fine. That kind of parental hue of government is generally pretty silly, but not nearly as silly as expecting that a $500 fine will get someone to not blindly walk across a highway while texting, but the very likely result of being splattered across the windshield of an SUV wouldn't. In other words, were this crisis as dangerous as the good Aldermen suggest, the roads would be paved with blood, making for a perfectly suitable warning to distracted walkers. Notably, these deaths simply aren't happening.

Which is entirely besides the point, because if a fine that can be up to $500 for something as subjective as distracted walking is anything other than a cash-grab by a municipal government whose efforts to balance its budget are comedic at Mel Brooks levels, then I can't imagine what that other thing would be.


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  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 29 Nov 2017 @ 3:48pm

    Question

    What is the solution when I am riding my bicycle and a pedestrian is walking with their head down, headphones on, through an intersection when I have the right of way?

    Strong words?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 4:15pm

      Re: Question

      Yes, by all means, we should stop everyone from bothering me while I am doing stuff because I am important and everyone else is not - therefore I have priority over all other things going on an they must submit to my priorities or else!

      Strong words? ... nah, just narcissistic

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Jordan Chandler, 29 Nov 2017 @ 4:20pm

        Re: Re: Question

        Actually it's always been a bit of a legal conundrum for me...let's say you're a pedestrian, and I am in a car, and we are both legally doing our thing.

        If the pedestrian decides to close their eyes and run into the street randomly, they are effectively "transferring" their liability to the car drivers. Assuming the car driver has enough time, it is their legal duty to stop and not run over the pedestrian, despite the pedestrian "transferring" the liability for their life to the driver without asking them first. In our society, the laws favor those in a physically precarious situation, even if they put themselves in that situation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 4:56pm

          Re: Re: Re: Question

          Pedestrians always have the right of way.

          Now it appears someone wants to legislate what a pedestrian is allowed to do in public.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 8:20pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Question

            Pedestrians always have the right of way.

            No. Pedestrians do not always have the right of way. But they are always squishy, and often litigious.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mark Murphy (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 4:17pm

      Re: Question

      Presumably, that is already a crime.

      For example, suppose that you are riding your bicycle and a pedestrian is walking with their head up and no headphones through an intersection when you have the right of way. If you have the right of way, the pedestrian is committing whatever the pedestrian equivalent is of a moving violation.

      The fact that, in your scenario, the pedestrian is "heads down, headphones on" would not change that. So, whatever laws are against walking without the right of way would cover walking without the right of way with headphones on.

      If there is no law against walking without the right of way, fix that, and it will neatly cover both the with-headphones and sans-headphones scenarios.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Jordan Chandler, 29 Nov 2017 @ 4:24pm

        Re: Re: Question

        You're right, but my main addition is that whereas before, by "staying the course", you are in fact not breaking the law, whereby a ped starts walking in front of your car, by "staying the course", suddenly you are committing a crime of vehicular homicide or battery should you NOT act in the pedestrian's interest. Assuming they literally throw themselves in front of your car, you're fine, but if you did have time and just don't bother, the pedestrian has more of a case against you than you do against them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 6:23pm

          Re: Re: Re: Question

          While I do understand your point, this is functionally how all motor vehicle laws work. There's nothing special about pedestrians, nor about distracted pedestrians here. If someone runs a red light in front of you and you "stay the course," you are looking at vehicular homicide if you don't act in that driver's best interests. We, as a society, have generally decided that everyone has a responsibility to attempt to prevent accidents on roadways regardless of who is at fault, and that moving violations should not be punishable by death at the hands of whoever has the most momentum and decides that killing the other guy is worth getting to work 20 seconds earlier.

          As for who has a better case, that's a judge and jury problem, not a legislative one. Pedestrians are likely to have a better case because, in general, judges and juries are always more sympathetic to the party with more injuries to show. If you ran a red light and were hit by a Semi, you'd probably have the stronger case. Humans are like that and no amount of distracted walking laws are going to change that.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            David, 30 Nov 2017 @ 2:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Question

            In Germany, it's not a matter of a sympathetic jury any more. Operating dangerous equipment like automobiles is subject to strict liability that does not depend on culpability. A pedestrian does not pose a comparable danger, so the consequences of a car/pedestrian collision will always be accounted to a significant degree to the driver's liability because that is a risk he has chosen to accept by operating a potentially lethal vehicle in furtherance of his own interests.

            So as a car driver, you'll be liable for part of the damages in driving over a pedestrian even without breaking traffic rules or laws or being able to prevent the accident. That's a risk you have to accept in the course of choosing to operate dangerous equipment: why should a pedestrian bear the consequences arising from your life choices?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              JEDIDIAH, 30 Nov 2017 @ 8:46am

              Act like a child, get treated like one.

              Why should I be punished because you are a reckless moron? The fact that I am operating a dangerous device doesn't absolve you of personal responsibility for your own actions.

              The fact that Americans have a wide contempt for the law is why fines like this get imposed. You can't trust Americans to not do the most stupid thing possible and then defend their total lack lawlessness and common sense.

              YOU should look after yourself. You should have enough sensible fear of the 2 ton rolling death to avoid doing obviously stupid crap.

              Since basic survival instincts are not enough here, the state has to act like a nanny. This isn't just a mindless power grab. It's a reaction to adults acting like children.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Bergman (profile), 30 Nov 2017 @ 6:51pm

                Re: Act like a child, get treated like one.

                To a large extent, the state mandates that adults act like children by criminalizing any attempts to ensure children grow up to be adults.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2017 @ 10:13am

                Re: Act like a child, get treated like one.

                "You can't trust Americans to not do the most stupid thing possible "

                Clearly it is only people in America (did you mean the USA?) that are afflicted with this aliment while the rest of the world is not. Is it in the water? Maybe it is the result of pesticide use that the rest of the planet has outlawed? It could be lead in the water pipes.

                Nahhh - nothing to worry about, damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 4:58pm

        Re: Re: Question

        I repeat ... the pedestrian always has the right of way.

        Did you not pay attention in drivers ed?
        Or maybe you have never had proper driving instruction?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 5:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: Question

          No, not always. Legally, pedestrians have the right-of-way at controlled intersections and in marked crosswalks; but the law also states that "no pedestrian shall unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 9:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Question

            Yeah, you mean those laws passed in order to allow the running over of protesters?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              JEDIDIAH, 30 Nov 2017 @ 8:49am

              Re: Question

              No, those laws existed before you were even born. The same goes for the doctrine of contributory negligence. You can't weasel out of your own personal responsibility.

              YOU are why fines like this get imposed.

              Regardless of whatever fantasies the Germans have come up with, the laws of physics are unavoidable.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2017 @ 10:28am

                Re: Re: Question

                "You can't weasel out of your own personal responsibility"
                - And that would be .. not walking out in front of your vehicle? When did I do that, and where?

                "YOU are why fines like this get imposed"
                - I am? I have not walked out in front of your or any other vehicle while on my cell phone.


                What if I do not even own a cell phone ... am I still the one to blame for all this? Of course! Why not?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 4:35pm

      Re: Question

      Bike couriers solved this years ago, I believe it is called a Ulock

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      You talkin' to me?, 29 Nov 2017 @ 5:56pm

      Re: Question

      Steer around said person.

      If you are going to fast, then YOU are a problem to everyone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2017 @ 7:46am

      Re: Question

      That's your problem. The pedestrian always has the right away.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2017 @ 8:05am

      Re: Question

      The solution, which isn't a great one, is to expect other road users to do stupid things and act accordingly—which any good cyclist is already doing with respect to motor vehicles. If it looks like someone's going to cross without looking: brake, steer around, and/or use a bell/horn/voice.

      And to quote the article:

      That kind of parental hue of government is generally pretty silly, but not nearly as silly as expecting that a $500 fine will get someone to not blindly walk across a highway while texting, but the very likely result of being splattered across the windshield of an SUV wouldn't.

      The law would not make it illegal to enter the roadway without looking, only to use your phone while in it. They're fining the wrong behaviour. It's illegal to use your phone while crossing, even if you looked carefully first and are 100% sure there's no chance of conflict. But it's totally fine to mindlessly drop your phone into a pocket and cross the roadway without looking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 3:58pm

    Ouch. That smarts!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 5:45pm

    It is times like this where proposed ordinance language would be nice to read. If the article is taken literally, walking while talking would be problematic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nick-B, 29 Nov 2017 @ 5:45pm

    Eyes on the road at all times.

    I assume, then, that phone manufacturers are going to follow the vehicle industry and ensure you are not using a mobile device and walking. They will use the phone's external camera to verify that you are in motion (or use GPS), and disable all features until you come to a complete stop with your shoes off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 5:56pm

    u let all hang out mr geigier and we laugh is so small

    remind when i am live in chiba prefect (atside tokyo this joke went by me:

    two girls cross street one each side in rain
    they ar umbrellad up bump into other and fall down
    up they rise for yelling (much long funny in japanse
    until a bus haas to stop and tootle horn
    they turn and go back same side
    (bus passes

    (explain we r having old say like: a bus flattens two argument as once


    i should explain joke last night; whenmouse ran up her leg, she had old fashin pants (loose

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 6:49pm

    Why is this restricted to road intersections? Make it apply anywhere: footpaths, shopping centres, public transport. Anyone on a phone that is causing an obstruction or is likely to hit something should be fined. Confiscate their phone too.

    Maybe then we'll finally have free flow of foot traffic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 7:22pm

    Would they ban talking on the phone?

    Maybe I could go along with a texting ban (though not the "excessive fine"), but would talking on the phone also be banned? That would be nonsensical, unless they also want to ban two or more pedestrians from talking to each other.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 8:28pm

    Chicago is going to need as much of that fine money as possible to pay off the inevitable lawsuit after a cop shoots a pedestrian during one 9f these stops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 8:33pm

    Back when I was a kid...

    we didn't have these fancy gadgets, we had books. We wouldn't put up with laws like that. We woulda told them that they would extract our literary adjuncts exclusively from our deceased cadavers!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DeComposer (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 8:46pm

    How would this even be enforceable?

    I'm pretty sure there's no law that requires a pedestrian to carry identification.

    I expect a lot of citations would be issued to "John Smith," "Donald Trump," and "Rahm Emanuel."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 9:15pm

      Re: How would this even be enforceable?

      Some places tried to pass a Papers Please Law but it was struck down in the courts iirc.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 30 Nov 2017 @ 5:54am

    Darwin needs a raise.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKcYtw6azTM

    If only the dumbshuts would take themselves out before they harm others, or breed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 30 Nov 2017 @ 5:58am

    Bu, bu, but . . . .

    Your honor! I was NOT texting and walking. I was updating my FaceBorg pages. My Twit friends were nominating me for the highly coveted Darwin Award.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2017 @ 8:05am

    Another reason to avoid Chicago, but what if their fascist ideas spread to other cities in need of money and excuses for stealing yours? Need to nip this in the bud, kill it before it spreads, ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 30 Nov 2017 @ 10:35am

    Right of Way

    Right of way is a term used to describe "the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another", or "a path or thoroughfare subject to such a right.

    If you are facing a red light, and walk against it, a pedestrian does not magically gain right of way. The car has the right of way, though that does not obviously give the car permission to mow down the pedestrian.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 30 Nov 2017 @ 11:53am

    Traffic laws are not the same nationwide. They are dependent upon the state that one is in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2017 @ 2:55pm

      Re:

      And almost any interaction between car and pedestrian will leave the pedestrian in a rather sorry state. But then, I thought Alberta was the S😁rry State.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2017 @ 8:16am

    Sadly, you have a typo in line one, "enttity".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 1 Dec 2017 @ 11:46am

    Let's cut the cr@p Tim, you really know why...

    ... the City of Chicago, and County of Cook are BROKE, and the recent push back on the Cook County Sugary Beverage Tax (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-soda-tax-repeal-reaction-20171011-story.html) has the powers to be in City and County Hall scrambling to make up the growing amounts of shortfalls.

    Hell, I am surprised these powers to be have not attempted some sort of Regional Income Tax Assessment like what was done in Ohio, or simply attempt to muscle the Cook (along with DuPage and Will) County Suburbs into a 'mutual vital services pack' like the City of Toronto and York in Ontario. Then again, if there was not already a mass migration now, there would be then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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