Pedestrians, Beware: D.C. Considers Banning Your Use of Electronics

Bright blue skies and sunshine-filled days have most Washingtonians walking or biking to work, leaving their four-wheel gas guzzlers back at home.

With the increase of foot traffic, the District of Columbia government has considered fining pedestrians who use electronic devices, such as cell phones and iPods, while crossing the street.

“Every day in Washington, sidewalks and crosswalks are filled with people who are plugged in to another environment — the ether,” says the Pedestrian Safety Committee of the Council for Court Excellence, a civic group that works to improve the administration of justice in the District.

According to the council, 12 percent of D.C. residents walk to and from work on a normal basis, which is twice the national average. With the unseasonably warm temperatures this month, that percentage is likely to have been even higher.

These walkers are plugged in during their commutes on foot and, according to the CCE’s Pedestrian Safety Committee report, “Walkers using electronics are bumping, slipping, falling and harming themselves through inattention.”

The report recommends that the District Council consider banning the use of electronics not only by walkers but by bikers as well. If people are listening to their iPods at full volume or in the middle of an intense conversation, they are not giving the road their full attention.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center recently published a study indicating that the number of headphone-wearing pedestrians killed or injured by motor vehicles and trains have more than tripled in six years.

Nothing has been set in stone at this time to prevent more injuries and deaths, but Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the time is now to “aggressively enforce pedestrian laws, and pedestrians need to be educated about the hazards of walking distracted.”

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