Ban on Texting and Walking?

You know you’ve done it. You’re walking down a busy street, and your phone pings, so you pull it out to look. A text, a notification from social media, a calendar reminder – you have to know! Your attention focuses on the phone and you bump into another pedestrian.

While that may seem harmless or maybe just impolite, texting and walking can be much more dangerous. Imagine if you were doing that while crossing a busy intersection. In the wrong place, at the wrong time, you could find yourself walking into traffic.

That’s the thinking behind a Toronto City Council proposed ban on texting and walking. The move was supported by Toronto Mayor John Tory, and according to Ontario’s provincial Transportation Minister, it is well within the city’s jurisdiction to pass such a bylaw.

Backers of the proposal want to change Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act to ban “actively using a hand-held wireless communication device or hand-held electronic entertainment device while on any travelled portion of a roadway.” Similar bans have also been proposed in Calgary and New Jersey. And a safety campaign around texting and walking was recently launched in South Korea. Could BC be next? Two city councillors in Vancouver already like the idea.

Smartphones make for dumb pedestrians. You’ve heard the joke about not being able to chew gum and walk at the same time? Well, it isn’t far off the mark. While we try to multitask and we think we can do many things at once, we can only focus our attention on doing one thing at a time.

Eyes glued to a small screen means missing out on potential risks, whether it’s another pedestrian, a crack in the sidewalk, or an oncoming car.

So what to do? Simple. If you’re using your phone while walking, step to the side and away from others to use your device (like against a wall or alongside a building). And never text while in an area where vehicles may be present (such as a crosswalk or parking lot).

For more information

  • City asks for crosswalk phone ban, Toronto Star
  • Two Vancouver councillors support ban on texting in crosswalks, Global News
  • Seoul’s new traffic signs warn of the dangers of texting while walking, TechCrunch

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Picture of Michael Slater, K.C.
Michael Slater, K.C.
Michael Slater K.C. is the founding partner of Slater Vecchio. The majority of his practice is confined to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury cases.