New York plans to make texting while crossing the street illegal and punishable with a fine upto $250 if bill is passed
A new bill introduced to the New York state Senate is now going to hit pedestrians stuck to their portable devices as they cross New York's busy streets with a $250 fine, according to reports. New York Senator John Liu introduced the bill on the Senate floor on Tuesday, May 14.
Daily Mail reported that the new bill was proposed after Assemblyman Felix Ortiz failed to get the committee behind the legislation last year. The new legislation would ban the use of any "portable electronic device" while a person is crossing a street in New York state.
These devices include any handheld mobile telephone, personal digital assistants, pagers, laptops, electronic games or "any other electronic device when used to input, write, send, receive, or read a text for present or future communication." Only in cases of contacting emergency personnel would the use of portable electronic devices be allowed, the bill stated.
Further reports suggested that people who are caught using their devices will be hit with an initial fine of $25 to $50. After pedestrians are fined for the first time, subsequent fines will see pedestrians made to shell out $50 to $100 for their second offense and $50 to $250 for a third fine.
However, police officers, peace officers, members of the fire department and emergency vehicle operators are allowed to use their devices while "in performance of their official duties". Senator Liu explained, "[The bill] does not say you can't talk on the phone. We're talking about handheld devices… you can wait the five seconds to get to the other side."
Meanwhile, Marco Conner, the interim director of Transportation Alternatives, claimed the bill was "terribly misguided". He said, "Barely any data is being cited. Most traffic fatalities nationwide involve some kind of driver. It's victim-blaming in disguise."
In 2018, Ortiz took to his Twitter to advocate for the legislation. "I have introduced legislation that will make it a violation for pedestrians to be using their cell phones while crossing the street," the Democrat said. "Distracted walking is a danger for both the pedestrian and drivers."
Will Farr, a transportation engineer, asserted: "This absurd victim blaming legislation needs to be put to rest. Your solution to drivers killing people in the crosswalk is to create yet another mechanism for police harassment?"
The sentiment was shared by New York City resident, Alex Knight, who added: "Aside from being absurd victim blaming, this ridiculous bill would be used by police departments to meet quotas and target low-income and POC citizens if enacted into law. How about you focus on the real problem: dangerous drivers."
Liu acknowledged the possibility of discriminatory policing but claimed the bill wouldn't be the first priority of law enforcement. "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," he said. "My intention is to help New Yorkers remember what they should do and what they should not do – wait the five seconds!"
Scott Hechinger, a Brooklyn-based public defender, proclaimed that the bill will more than likely create "dangerous police escalation" because it will be "disparately enforced." He said, "Literally every single thing either criminalized or otherwise prohibited in NY is enforced disproportionately against people of color living only in certain neighborhoods," which already includes "Jaywalking. Riding a bike on a sidewalk. Broken taillight or failure to signal. Marijuana and drug possession."
Hechinger continued, "We have no idea whether or not people will be deterred from texting while walking bc of this law (tho evidence suggests no). But we *know* for sure that Black & Latino people will by & large be the only ones stopped. That’s just how 'policing' works in America."
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