HARRISBURG, PA — Distracted drivers in Pennsylvania face fines for not paying attention behind the wheel, but there is no penalty for distracted walkers. That soon could change, as a pending bill in the state House would establish fines for pedestrians whose concentration lapses when crossing the street.
State Rep. Karen Boback plans to introduce legislation providing penalties for pedestrians using their phones or any interactive communications device who suddenly leave a curb and walk or run into a vehicle. Pedestrians on their phones while crossing a street at any point other than within a crosswalk and fail to yield the right-of-way to all vehicles also could be fined.
“Distracting walking is a very real and serious issue,” Boback, a Republican who represents portions of Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming counties, wrote in a recent memo to colleagues. “Technology has invaded our life, and as a result people have stopped paying attention to their surroundings.”
Boback did not mention in the memo how much the fine would be in her pending legislation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,977 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents across the nation in 2017 – about one death every 88 minutes. An estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal crash-related injuries that year.
Per trip, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a car crash than passenger vehicle occupants. Most pedestrians deaths occur in urban areas at night at non-intersection locations.
In 2017, seniors 65 and older accounted for 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths and an estimated 10 percent of all pedestrian injuries in 2017.
According to a 2018 Governors Highway Safety Association report on pedestrian fatalities, Pennsylvania has conducted targeted enforcement stings for motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks but has not targeted distracted pedestrians.
PennDOT’s website has a number of safety videos for parents and children focused on walking safely to school. Packages of pedestrian safety cards are distributed at various events. PennDOT’s district press and safety officers do a range of activities in support of pedestrian safety, according to the study.
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