Fines for walking, talking

Save minutes, save a fine? Photo Credit: John Gosslee

Listening to music. Catching up with family back home. Texting friends between classes.

All of the above are normal ways to fill the otherwise-boring time spent walking from DeMoss to Campus North, or walking to pick up a car that seems like it is parked three miles away.

But these completely normal pastimes are actually unwise. In fact, pedestrians who participate in such pursuits are unable to properly navigate a street. Clearly, a guy walking down the sidewalk while on the phone with his cousin is clearly a disaster waiting to happen to all nearby pedestrians and vehicles.

This is what New York state Senator Carl Kruger would like to convince Congress. In a proposed bill, Kruger claims that anyone who uses an electronic device while walking is a potential hazard to themselves and anyone else. His planned bill even comes with a punishment for anyone who is wild enough to want to listen to their iPod while walking, a feat that is—he must see as being—as difficult as walking a tightrope: a $100 fine for each offense.

“We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross. You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity,” said Kruger in a New York Times article.
Is that so?

At any given time on any given college campus around the world, you can find hundreds if not thousands of students texting, talking to friends, listening to music, eating, AND walking all at the same time. Some people may find that these activities produce a slower-moving pedestrian, but are they really all that dangerous?

Apparently not, because Kruger’s biggest supporter, Arkansas state Senator Jimmy Jeffress, actually withdrew his support from this national campaign due to receiving so many email complaints.

His reason for dropping his own proposal?

“I have had about half a dozen positive hits on it and ten times that many against it.,” said Jeffress in an Arkansas Democrat Gazette article.

The New York Senator was quick to jump to the attack in order to defend such a sacred and infinitely vital bill—even if he apparently did not know anything about what had caused the original bill’s author to withdraw his own proposal.

“Shame on [Sen. Jeffress] … You also file a bill because it may be a cornerstone for others to use. It is important to press the issue, because it is an issue worthy of the pressure. There is a definite, demonstrated need for this legislation,” said Kruger in a CBS News article.

Honestly, this is just getting a little ridiculous. As adults, college students should be more than able to decide whether or not they listen to Usher and Jason Mraz while walking to class, or if they can answer the phone when their boss calls to change their work schedule.

If senators really think pedestrians who are, as Kruger said, “engaged in some kind of wired activity,” are actually dangerous, then they should feel free to take a page from the British Health and Safety police. In 2008, this same “problem” was dealt with in London and resulted in the wrapping of iconic East London’s Brick Lane’s lampposts with white, fluffy rugby goalpost cushions.

An eye-sore, yes, and certainly expensive, but it seemed to solve the problem for the Brits. The pads did not last long—as would be expected—but it proved to be an example of what a bad idea it was to the rest of the world. In fact, it remained the only “safe street” to be built. This is probably because the government felt so silly for ever having considered taking thousands of dollars out of their budget to fill every street with padded lampposts and police officers to stop distracted bypassers.

An absurd solution to an absurd “crime” makes the most sense, in this case. We can only hope that the rest of Congress will see the lack of common sense in Kruger’s bill.

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