Should Government Regulate Distracted Walking?

Posted on July 30, 2012 by


We see them all the time – pedestrians ambling along with lowered heads and furiously typing thumbs, sidewalk hogs with a bluetooth device planted firmly within the ear who gesticulate wildly during animated conversations, and wild walkers too busy swiping, scrolling, and liking to notice that they are about to careen into you.

Totally annoying.

And common. When I stepped outside to take a photo for this post, I located a distracted pedestrian within ten seconds. Because they are everywhere. It’s not just that their halfalogues annoy the snot out of us, it’s that they are a hazard to others. And themselves.

So why not issue these distracted pedestrians tickets in the same way that we do distracted drivers?

Distracted walking ordinances have popped up in a handful of jurisdictions, but have largely failed.

Utah, however, succeeded. Now one municipality boasts an ordinance that allows police to ticket you for distracted walking, but only around railways. As the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

“The fact we have an ordinance on the books gives our transit police an opportunity to go up and educate [people],” Carpenter said. “It creates an environment where we can have a little more serious conversation than we could without having the ordinance on the books.”

Um, back up the train there, sport. See, here’s the thing. Your police can already go up to people and educate them. You can already have a serious conversation. Adding the ability to cite them for “distracted walking” amps up that police encounter, and gives police officers yet another tool to exert social control over citizens for activities that are so vague and ill-defined that nearly anything might qualify.

How about walking while eating an ice cream cone? Talking to a friend? Disciplining a screaming toddler? Walking an unruly dog? And how does one demonstrate the opposite of distracted walking, anyway?

This is not like distracted driving, no matter how tempting the comparison might be.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Walking is a right, not a privilege.

Driving involves operating a motor vehicle, which requires a license and holds age requirements. Vehicles are large, powerful machines capable of great speed and have tremendous lethality potential.

The state can, and should, be heavily involved in how citizens drive cars.

The state should stay the hell out of how people walk.

What do you think?


Posted in: Miscellaneous