Forget global warming! Move over, nuclear war! Take a seat, rising tide of neo-fascist mobilization! We've got bigger fish to fry – namely, people who have the temerity to look at their phones while remaining ambulatory. On Oct. 30, Toronto MPP Yvan Baker, the representative for Etobicoke Centre, announced that he intends to introduce a private member's bill called the Phones Down, Heads Up Act.
Baker is on a mission to prevent distracted walking and pedestrian fatalities. He explained the logic to reporters: "If you are distracted as a pedestrian, you are more likely to get hurt." He wants pedestrians to be fined for not paying attention when they walk. The first offence would cost $50, then $75 and then $125. Baker is not alone in his convictions. Earlier this year, Toronto City Council asked the province to make "distracted" walking an offence and Honolulu recently passed a law that fines distracted pedestrians $35 (U.S.).
Remember that date, folks – Oct. 30, 2017 – that's the day the stupidest private member's bill in the history of Ontario was proposed. And that's up against some heavy competition. To be fair, Baker's heart is in the right place. Last year, 42 pedestrians were killed in traffic collisions. The problem with fining pedestrians is that it won't fix that.
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Before going any further, I should caution people with heart conditions or other health concerns. The information I'm about to convey could prove lethal to those with delicate constitutions. If you suffer from high blood pressure and have a home monitor, you may want to employ it.
So, I've checked the statistics and, as far as I can discern, none of those pedestrians was killed because they were bumped into by another pedestrian checking their Twitter feed. No, instead, they were all killed because cars struck them. It's as if the No. 1 cause of deaths on Ontario roadways are automobiles, especially those driven by distracted drivers.
If we follow Heads up, Phones Down logic, shouldn't we be fining people who get shot for distracted walking? Surely, they should have their heads on a swivel looking for stray bullets? You're more likely to get shot if you're looking at your phone instead of searching for potential shooters. Should we fine people who go to bars and have more than three beers? They're more likely to be distracted pedestrians, aren't they? Should we force pedestrians to wear bright neon clothing that glows in the dark and is easy to see? Perhaps we should require all pedestrians to sing show tunes? The odds of someone belting out Don't Cry for Me Argentina getting hit by a car must be extremely low.
Walking around with your eyes glued to your phone or a book is stupid. STUPID. No question about it. It's a lesson you're supposed to learn as a child. I discovered it as a university student when, after being introduced to the Newfoundland beverage Screech at a cast party for the play Salt-Water Moon, I declared I intended to walk home with my eyes closed. That did not end well.
The only thing more stupid, however, is proposing we fine people for walking around "distracted." Being a tad distracted is the very essence of walking. It's the best part. You walk around and notice people and sights and sounds and get "distracted" by the world. I don't want to live in a world of "focused" pedestrians. You want to know what that would look like? Take a gander at footage from the Nuremberg Rally – those guys were in no way shape or form distracted and we do not want that.
Instead of fining pedestrians, perhaps we should be forcing the companies manufacturing devices that are designed to distract us to take some responsibility. Billions of dollars and some of the brightest minds on the planet are used to make them impossible to resist. Perhaps we can ask tech companies to solve the problem they've helped create. We can design safer roads that do a better job of separating pedestrians and cars. We can have safer vehicles that can sense pedestrians, we can use apps that disable distracting features when we are walking or driving.
But we don't need to fine pedestrians. That would be a step backward.