Watch the video for more information on the new bill.
Video credit: PIX11 News
New York Senate has introduced a new bill which would see pedestrians using mobile phones on busy streets getting hefty fines of up to $250.
The bill was presented in the state legislature on Tuesday by Senator John Liu after fellow lawmaker Felix Ortiz failed to get approval for a similar bill last year.
According to the new bill, people wouldn’t be allowed to use a ‘portable electronic device’ while crossing a street in the state.
The prohibited devices include: mobile phones, electronic games, pagers, laptops, personal digital assistants or ‘any other electronic device when used to input, write, send, receive, or read text for present or future communication.’
People would be allowed to use an electronic device only in cases of contacting emergency personnel, according to the proposed legislation.
The offenders would be fined from $25 to $50 the first time.
Following it, pedestrians violating the new law would be fined from $50 to $100 for the second time and $50 to $250 for the third violation.
According to the bill, police officers, firefighters, peace officers, and emergency vehicle operators would be able to use their portable devices while they’re performing their ‘official duties.’
Speaking to The Guardian, 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.’
However, the interim director of the Transportation Alternatives, Marco Conner, said the proposed bill was ‘terribly misguided.’
‘Barely any data is being cited. Most traffic fatalities nationwide involve some kind of driver. It’s victim-blaming in disguise,’ he said.
Last year, Ortiz tried to advocate for his bill using social media.
‘I have introduced legislation that will make it a violation for pedestrians to be using their cell phones while crossing the street,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘Distracted walking is a danger for both the pedestrian and drivers.’
But the internet users condemned the bill, calling it just a form of ‘victim blaming.’
Transportation engineer Will Farr commented: ‘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?’
New Yorker Alex Knight 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.’
Harvey Miller, Reusche Chair in Geographic Information Science at the Ohio State Univeristy, said: ‘More victim-blaming. When pedestrians are injured or killed by a car, the vast majority of the time it’s the driver’s fault.’
Liu admitted that the bill could lead to discriminatory policing but said it wouldn’t be the first priority of the police.
‘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,’ the senator said.
‘My intention is to help New Yorkers remember what they should do and what they should not do – wait the five seconds!’
Brooklyn-based public defender Scott Hechinger warned that the bill will be ‘disparately enforced,’ probably creating ‘dangerous police escalation.’
‘Literally every single thing either criminalized or otherwise prohibited in NY is enforced disproportionately against people of color living only in certain neighborhoods,’ he said.
‘Jaywalking. Riding a bike on a sidewalk. Broken taillight or failure to signal. Marijuana & drug possession.
‘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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