The recent past has been a time of major debate around the subject of pedestrian safety regulations. Places all around the world, with Honolulu being the most recent example, have begun placing restrictions on distracted walking in hopes of increasing pedestrian safety. Those have ranged from fines to guiding technological installations to creating new lanes for cell phone users altogether.
Now the trend has made its way to Ontario, thanks to Liberal MPP Yvan Baker's proposed Phones Down, Heads Up Act. Baker wants to the province to go down the Honolulu route and hand distracted walkers a fine for their negligence.
On Friday, national newspaper The Globe and Mail waded into the debate with an editorial that frames the debate in a different way. Though it clearly isn't a good idea for people to be navigating sidewalks with their eyes constantly on their phones, the paper's editorial board argues, attempting to meaningfully increase sidewalk and road safety by primarily curbing pedestrian behaviour would be the wrong way to remedy the issue at hand.
"If you want to save pedestrian lives, slow down the vehicles. Install more crosswalks. Add speed bumps. Lower speed limits. Widen sidewalks. Narrow roads," reads the editorial. Apparently, hard evidence simply doesn't show a wide correlation between pedestrian cell phone use and fatalities. According to recent American auto collision data, only 25 of the 23,240 pedestrian deaths that occurred between 2010 and 2014 were at all related to electronic devices being in the hands of someone who was walking.
Though Mr. Baker's intentions are no doubt good, his prescription in this particular case may be somewhat off the mark. If so, Phones Down, Heads Up would be a major hassle for an inconsequential result.