Update on Ontario's "Phones Down, Heads Up Act"

People in streets looking at newspapers
via Copenhagenize

It just gets dumb and dumber.

Treehugger recently covered the Law proposed for Ontario, Canada, to ban "distracted walking" that is being taken very seriously by politicians in the province. The MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) who proposed it was defending it on CBC Radio and got in trouble at one point when they asked her how many lives would be saved, and she responded with the famous phrase, "If it saves only one life...."


I have turned it around in the past to suggest that all drivers should wear helmets, cars should all be high-visibility colors, and car radios and entertainment systems should be banned. Because that would save a whole lot more than one life. (More in TreeHugger)

copenhangeinze poster© Copenhagenize

Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize pitched in to help the province with this poster suggesting that, if the "if it saves just one life..." card is being played, helmets for pedestrians would be a lot more useful.

driving vs phones© Mike Boos

Many have wondered what the statistics show, and Mike Boos of Waterloo, Ontario plotted the available data. He found that the rate of injury and death among the distracted pedestrian population has not really moved at all, since pedestrians have a wide range of different distractions.

For those in cars, however, it's another story, with the rate of injuries increasing proportionately with the number of wireless subscriptions.

declining rate of distraction© Mike Boos

What I find also interesting is that the rate of injuries and deaths among pedestrians is actually declining. I wrote about this a few years ago. As the number of people with phones increases, the absolute number of injuries will go up but the rate will go down.

tritag© Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG)

The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) reminds us that the single biggest cause of pedestrian collisions is the failure to yield right-of-way, combined with the inability of the pedestrian to backflip out of the way.

A lot of people are beginning to come out and call this for what it is. The Toronto Star editorializes:

Most pedestrian casualties in Toronto are seniors, not the demographic known for Instagram obsessions. And in a vast majority of cases, the victim had the right of way. It seems pretty clear that distracted driving, not distracted walking, is the primary cause for the recent rise in deaths. And where pedestrians are at fault, right-of-way laws already exist.

Despite the redundancy of the bill and the misguided message of shared culpability that it sends, Toronto city council is enthusiastically on board. Last year, it passed a motion asking the province to pursue a ban on distracted walking.

At the time, the motion’s author, Councillor Frances Nunziata, suggested that texting behind the wheel and texting while walking through an intersection are “the same.” Of course, she overlooked the rather obvious fact that a driver operates a machine capable of killing and maiming while the pedestrian is operating, well, a pair of feet.

This is all one big distraction from more important issues.


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