Keep your Head up and no more Distracted Walking

Are you going to be a zombie for Halloween this year? Or are you a zombie every day and maybe you will make a change on October 31 and wake up. If you live in Honolulu, Hawaii, you may consider going as a giant ticket or a traveling smart phone this year because zombies are not welcome in this city anymore. We have all heard of distracted driving, but have you ever heard of distracted walking?

It was all over the news yesterday. Honolulu is the first city to formally pass a distracted walking law, also known as the “Zombie law.” The city wants people to wake up and pay attention when they cross the street. A person can be ticketed and fined if a police officer deems that individual to be distracted while walking,

Let’s be real. What does distracted walking really mean? It refers to people who are more engrossed in whatever it is on their smart phone than what is on the road ahead of them. As I wrote about earlier this week, we all share the roads, and we all need to respect the others around us.

It is easy to picture the distracted walker. The person could be male or female, 25 years old or 65 years old. The smart phone is held tightly in one or both hands. The body is slightly slumped forward with both eyes fixed on the screen. Sometimes the fingers are typing away some inane message to a friend or colleague. The person is totally unaware of the busy street – or world – around him or her.

This person bumps into other people on the sidewalk, crosses the intersection when the light is about to turn red and does not check to make sure a car is not coming. Whatever is on the screen of the phone is clearly more important than staying safe as he or she cross the road.

I will admit that once in a while I become a zombie when I walk down the sidewalk. I try to avoid this behaviour unless I need to contact someone urgently, but yes, sometimes I am guilty. Admit it – you are guilty too. We are becoming a society of zombies. You don’t need to waste money dropping $15 at a movie theatre anymore to see the latest zombie flick. Just head downtown and watch the zombies cross the street.

But do we need laws that actually ban people from checking their smart phones while they cross the street? I would say no. As we embrace technology and change our lives each day to include it, we must adjust our behaviour and be responsible. It’s great that I can text my family who live in New Zealand while I am in downtown Toronto. I love that I can check the score in the baseball game no matter where I’m walking. And it thrills my mother that she can call her three children no matter where we are.

But I can send that text when I sit down at the local coffee shop. While I am a big sports fan, I don’t have to know the score in the game while I’m walking along the sidewalk. I can speak to my mother on the phone later. What I – or anyone around me is doing on the smart phone really is not urgent. Whatever it is I or those around me are doing really can wait.

Let’s face it, distracted walking is dangerous. It’s dangerous to the distracted person and to everyone – the pedestrians, drivers and cyclists – on the street as well. It even seems to be dangerous to “motionless objects such as street signs, doors or walls,” according to a warning in the United States from the National Safety Council (I have never walked into a street sign, door or wall while using my smart phone. Have you?!).

Be smart when you use your smart phone. When you are walking to your car, running for the bus or crossing the street to get a coffee, drop your phone in your purse or pocket for a few minutes. Don’t be accused of distracted walking, especially if you live in (or are visiting) Honolulu.

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