New York City Could Soon Fine You $250 for Texting While Crossing the Street

The new bill was originally proposed to help curb the approximated 300 pedestrian fatalities that happen every year in the state of New York.

Scenes of New York City
Getty Images - 2017 Gary Hershorn

New York City lawmakers are considering a bill that could fine texting pedestrians for reckless behavior if they’re caught with their faces in their phones while crossing the street. The bill was introduced recently and could bill New Yorkers between $25 and $250 if police officers spot them “using a portable electronic device while crossing a roadway.” Some individuals would be exempt, including those working as emergency responders, hospital employees, and other municipal service members.

This measure was introduced to curb pedestrian-related vehicle accidents as traffic and congestion continue to be a growing problem within the Big Apple. Pedestrian accidents have risen dramatically as people develop tunnel vision while being enamored by portable electronic devices, often coupled with headphone use which prevents people from hearing oncoming vehicles and even horns.

Current statistics show that around 300 pedestrian fatalities occur every year in the state of New York. The bill, introduced by New York Senator John Liu, D-Queens, hopes to reduce this statistic greatly.

“[The bill] does not say you can’t talk on the phone,” Liu said in a statement. “We’re talking about handheld devices … you can wait the five seconds to get to the other side.”

However, not everyone is on board with the bill.

“It’s a terribly misguided bill,” Marco Conner told The Guardian. Conner is the interim executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Barely any data is being cited. Most traffic fatalities nationwide involve some kind of driver. It’s victim-blaming in disguise. It’s a recipe for subjective and discretionary policing.”

Conner further pointed out that the bill, if enacted, could potentially open the doors to “heightened racial discrimination by police.”

“There are many statutes where there is a possibility of selective enforcement and I’ll be the first to concede that this is not going to be the first priority of police, nor should it be,” Liu responded. “My intention is to help New Yorkers remember what they should do and what they should not do—wait the five seconds!”