Honolulu Texting and Walking Law Is Backed by Stats and Science

No text is worth $99.

Sending an innocuous text can now get you fined up to $99 if you do it while taking a stroll around Honolulu. On Wednesday, the Distracted Walking Law, which bans texting or looking down at a screen while walking, went into effect in the Hawaiian capital. It’s the first major city in America to take legal action in order to prevent pedestrians from getting hit by cars while staring at their phones.

We’re so accustomed to glancing at our phones and tablets that many of us assume we can do something as simple as walk and text at the same time, but the statistics say otherwise: According to a report from the National Safety Council, there were 11,101 injuries due to walking while using cell phones between 2000 and 2011.

Other data suggests that the problem is getting even worse. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that a staggering 5,000 pedestrians were killed and another 76,000 were injured in traffic collisions, noting that many of these were likely to be the result of distracted walking.

First-time offenders can get fined up to $35 for texting and walking in Honolulu. 

Flickr / ashleymdeason

That data doesn’t even take into account the number of drivers who get into accidents while driving with distractions — the NHTSA called texting the most “alarming” — resulting in 3,477 people being killed in 2015 alone.

The root of the problem seems to be that many of us think we’re immune to the consequences of being distracted. Maybe you think you’re faster at texting than most, or perhaps you trust that your brain can run on autopilot, allowing you to do many things at once. While a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study released Monday confirmed the existence of the autopilot mode in the human brain, it also pointed out that we can’t do all tasks while we’re zoned out. The brain is wired to anticipate external events, wrote the researchers, but it can only do that efficiently when the information that it’s receiving and processing is predictable.

In other words, the brain’s autopilot may get you home just fine if you’re walking a well-traveled route, but when you add a stream of Instagram posts or new text conversations into the mix, there’s no guarantee that your brain will work as efficiently.

If that’s not enough to convince you to put your phone down and take in your surroundings while walking through beautiful Honolulu, then consider that the city’s police can fine you between $15 and $35 for your first offense, $75 for your second, and up to $99 if you’re stubborn enough to do it three times in a year.

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