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Do bans on distracted walking punish the wrong people?

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Do bans on distracted walking punish the wrong people?

You may prefer to walk to and from work and elsewhere in California. Or, you may have no choice but to walk. Either way, there exist laws in various states, including Montclair, California, that punish pedestrians who use their phones while walking. Do such restrictions place the blame on the wrong individuals?

CityLab examined the issue in-depth. Should you find yourself the victim of an unfortunate encounter with a vehicle, knowing which party bears the brunt of the blame helps you build your case.


One of the biggest reasons for the opposition against distracted walking laws is that they blame victims rather than common traffic incident culprits: motorists. Usually, when pedestrian accidents happen, it is because the person behind the wheel was either not paying attention to the road or did not yield to the pedestrian. Drivers also break speed limits, which contributes to the prevalence of pedestrian accidents.

Focusing on effective safety measures

Rather than punishing pedestrians, it is better to focus on protecting pedestrians. Cities should lower speed limits and implement road designs that favor those on foot. Creating and adding more bike lanes is another recommendation.

Avoidable interactions with the police

Something else to consider is that laws that punish pedestrians can lead to unnecessary and negative police interactions, especially in regards to pedestrians of color. Such interactions can become needlessly violent.

Unnecessary fines

Another aspect of laws that inadvertently punish pedestrians is that of fines becoming financial burdens on innocent parties. One reason a person may walk instead of drive is that she or he cannot afford a vehicle. Having to pay a fine only puts more monetary hardship on that individual. Someone unable to pay a fine could face arrest.

This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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