Montclair, California banned the use of cell phones while walking across the street, giving offenders a warning if caught.
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Beginning Aug. 1, 2017, Montclair police will issue $100 citations for distracted walking, which also includes running, jogging, hiking, skateboarding and roller skating, per the government’s definition of a pedestrian. Those in a wheelchair or scooter are also defined as a pedestrian. Second violation fines could be up to $200.
Montclair police say earphones and looking at a phone while crossing the roadway is unsafe because the person crossing the street should be on the lookout for cars, some with drivers who might not notice the pedestrian due to also being distracted.
The regulations do not apply to people making 911 calls or for emergency first responders.
The California city hopes the new law will help prevent deaths. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths account for about 16 percent of all vehicle deaths, up from with 11 percent a few years ago.
Montclair city officials say a string of pedestrian accidents had one thing on common—cell phone usage. One incident in 2012, a 15-year-old walking to Montclair High School was hit by a vehicle as she stepped into a marked crosswalk.
She was on her phone with her earbuds in, according to city officials. The crash left her hemiplegic with severe brain damage resulting in mental ability of between a 1- and 3-year-old.
Nationwide in 2017, data shows 5,984 pedestrians were killed, three deaths short of the 2016 numbers. Pedestrian deaths recorded in 2009 totaled 4,109.
Higher numbers correlate with the increased use of smartphones and marijuana, though the correlation does not imply the cause, according to the report.
The GHSA study did not find a definitive link between pedestrian fatalities and legalization of recreational marijuana or the use of phones, but numbers confirm to researchers the correlation. From 2010 to 2016, there has been a 236 percent increase in smartphone use.
“Everyone’s using them, we’ve got them glued to our hands, whether we are on foot or behind the wheel … it’s definitely worth exploring more,” said Kara Macek, spokeswoman with the GSHA. “But because distracted pedestrian laws are so new, the “jury’s still out as to whether it’s actually going to make a difference.”
Additionally, the seven states (plus Washington D.C.) that legalized recreational marijuana during 2012 to 2016 experienced a 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities during the first half of 2017, while a 5.8 percent decrease of pedestrian deaths occurred in all other states.
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