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Honolulu Enacts 'Distracted Walking Law,' Bans Texting While Crossing the Street

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 31, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

By now you should be pretty familiar with the penalties for texting while driving. Almost every state has distracted driving laws that penalize drivers for being on their smartphones while behind the wheel. And we see these laws as necessary for keeping other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians safe.

But what about those who are glued to their phones while walking, like zombies, oblivious to fellow pedestrians and cars alike? Well, Honolulu has a law for them, too. Hawaii's capital city just enacted a "Distracted Walking Law," and it covers a whole lot more than just texting while crossing the street.

Looking Up

The bill, signed into law by Mayor Kirk Caldwell last week, declares, "No pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device." While it does have exceptions for 911 calls and emergency responders, the devices covered by the law include more than just cell phones, and the prohibited activity can include more than just texting. Laptops, digital cameras, and video games can also be considered mobile electronic devices, as long as a person is looking at them while crossing the street.

"We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the county," Caldwell said. While Reuters was unable to access Honolulu-specific statistics, a 2015 University of Maryland study found more than 11,000 injuries resulting from phone-related distraction while walking in the United States between 2000 and 2011.

Cracking Down

The city won't start enforcing the new statute until after a three-month training and warning period, but violators can face some quickly increasing fines if caught. A first-time offense can get you a $15-$35 fine, second-time violators may be fined up to $75, and a third offense can be worth $99.

If you've been ticketed for distracted walking or driving, talk to an experienced traffic ticket attorney today.

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