First Mobiles, Now iPods!


First politicians placed bans on motorists’ cellphone use. Now they want to curb freedoms of pedestrians.
One of the downsides of global communication is that the moment one politician has a bright idea on the other side of the world, others soon hear about it and think it must be something they want to adopt.
So New York senator Carl Kruger is getting world-wide attention for his plan to make it illegal to use any electronic device while walking on a pavement or crossing a city street on foot. And Arkansas Senator Jimmy Jeffress wants to ban pedestrians from wearing iPod headphones in both ears on or near a roadway.
Kruger heard of one case in which it’s suspected the pedestrian was actually killed while listening to the iPod or talking on a mobile. That’s enough to make him want a total ban.

Now NSW police say they would support such a ban locally.

In fact. last year, vehicles killed 162 pedestrians or cyclists in New York, down from 180 four years earlier and pedestrian fatalities have fallen almost 20% from 2001.
This is one US news account about the Senator’s plan.
One incident the Senator from NY quoted involved a woman “engrossed in conversation on her cell phone walking straight into a park fountain.”
Now that woman was plain stupid and was probably the woman who became a You Tube sensation for always doing such things. So because of her we have to place a ban on all people?
Pedestrians may well get distracted by using a phone or iPod. Noise-cancelling headphones can cut out the noise from a car that suddenly appears out of nowhere straight in your path while walking.
But there are lots of distractions - and it’s not all one way.
As a daily walker, I encounter cars that roar out of driveways oblivious to pedestrians. Some days, I get so angry I want to ban cars!
New nanny laws to remind us of the need to be careful on the street are stupid. Do iPods cause accidents or is the cause people being stupid or not paying attention? Stupidity is difficult to legislate against.
And, while I strongly support mobile restrictions in vehicles because I have seen drivers very distracted, have the curbs on mobiles in cars worked or changed behaviour?
The taxi driver I got the other day spent much time on the phone arguing with a relative about something -talking while cradling his phone on his shoulder.
There has been other recent publicity in a newspaper recently showing Aucklanders, even cops, still talking on their phone while driving. After the initial law coming into effect, some people gave gone back to their old habits assuming they’ll never be caught. Part of the problem now is I see drivers hiding their mobiles to avoid detection  and still texting or calling while holding the mobile under a seat etc which means fumbling around may be even more distracting!

In the US, a recent study by the insurance industry-funded Highway Loss Data Institute found that since three of four states that imposed such bans, crash numbers have increased.

“These results indicate that distracted driving crashes are a complicated issue unlikely to be affected greatly by laws banning only one or another potential distraction. Distracted driving has long been a major contributor to the motor vehicle crash problem in the United States. In 1979, a report on the “Indiana Tri-Level Study” concluded that “driver error” had been the proximate cause of 9 out of 10 crashes investigated.
Anecdotal evidence from insurance claims files and police crash reports over the years have provided an astounding array of ways in which drivers manage to be distracted from the driving task at just the wrong time — from adjusting the radio, to eating and drinking, to tending a child in the rear seat, to reading, shaving, and applying makeup, to swatting bees.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 21 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of fatal crashes in 2008 involved driver distraction (NHTSA, 2009), but this probably is an underestimate of the distracted driving problem due to the fact that many crash reports don’t have information on distracting events. The long history and ubiquity of distracted driving crashes, coupled with the current findings, suggests that public policy that focuses on only one source of distraction (for example, cellphone conversations or texting) may fail simply because it doesn’t recognize that drivers always are subject to distraction.
“Taking away cellphones may result only in drivers defaulting — even unintentionally — to new (or old) forms of distraction. In any case, the evidence to date indicates that cellphone conversations and texting no doubt increase crash risk during their occurrence ; however, despite the increase in cellphone conversations and texting, there has not been an upwared trend in either fatal crashes or collision claims. And most importantly for policy makers, laws banning these practices are not reducing crash risk in the United States.”

None of that changes my view that texting while driving is extremely dangerous.
But turning the spotlight on pedestrians using mobiles and iPods is just draconian. 99% of those users are responsible pedestrians and understand the danger. You can not legislate for anyone who is naturally foolhardy.



  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gabriella Turek, AKT. AKT said: Talk of banning pedestrian use of iPods in the streets is just nuts [...]

  2. Matt says:

    I think it is more prudent to ban cars, than to ban iPods.

    And it might be an idea to ban police and politicians while we’re at it.

  3. mark says:

    Yeah, ban, ban - all they ever think of, because it’s easy, gets them publicity, makes them look “serious”. Wonder how many make these proposals fully knowing they’ll never get them (except sometimes they do, and then you have either another law that doesn’t get enforced, or all sorts of people will get seriously inconvenienced).

    To a degree, I believe in libertarianistic approaches to this - ESPECIALLY with peds and cyclists. After all, if they do these things, they are primarily risking their own lives, not those of others.

  4. Nick R says:

    Sorry Mark, but in NZ people don’t have the personal right to injure themselves… not as long as we have a public heath service and ACC picking up the tab for their mistakes.

  5. mark says:

    “Sorry Mark, but in NZ people don’t have the personal right to injure themselves… not as long as we have a public heath service and ACC picking up the tab for their mistakes.”

    Actually, we do. How else to explain amateur rugby, rock climbing, caving, fishing on the west coast during heavy weather, living in a wooden house with no smoke alarms, or crossing Hobson Street midblock, all which I can legally do and expect rescue services and ACC to cover the cost if something hurts me.

    But don’t take it so serious, Nick R - all I was stating is that any law to restrict freedoms (“Thou shalt not!”) must also assess unintended consequences, and should not be passed simply to be seen as being a man of action! In dubio, pro libertas.

    Also, benefits must clearly and MEASURABLY outweigh the disadvantages. We have too many laws in this world which never did what they claimed to, but are still on the books.

  6. Nick R says:

    Actually ACC puts a lot of effort into injury prevention in things like rugby, there are regular public safety campaigns regarding smoke alarms and fire safety, and I believe that smoke alarms are mandatory fitment in all new homes too. All the things you have mentioned may be legal, but arguably they are all considerably regulated too (either by the state or by the individuals or clubs). With things like caving and rock climbing you’ll find the activities to be highly constrained and regulated according to accepted safe practices, and in some cases, law.

    There are also laws against crossing Hobson St in the wrong place, at least if you are within 20m of a signalised crossing or if you are ‘acting dangerously’..

    The literature on the subject is conclusive that there is a small but measurable increase in incident risk while using portable media player when crossing the road, but there isn’t much on simply walking down the sidewalk.

    I do agree that this particular case is reactionary and unworkable and unlikely to have tangible results, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss such “legislation of freedoms” entirely.

  7. Luke says:

    Whats really reactionary is having an a comment by a low level New York politician making headlines around the world.
    It creates a false impression of what govts in this part of the world are trying to do, and entrenches distrust of the democratic system.


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