Time to ban cellphone use in crosswalks


By San Mateo County Supervisor David J. Canepa

We all love our smartphones but let’s face it, they can be downright dangerous.

Since the year 2000, cellphone use has increased more than eight-fold. That increased use has unfortunately been accompanied by a dramatic increase in pedestrian injuries due to cell phone-related distracted walking.

I witnessed for myself at a busy crosswalk in Broadmoor Village so many adults and kids using their cellphones as they walked to school. It was chaotic as people paid little attention to their surroundings staring down at their phones.

I was with Stanley Roberts of “People Behaving Badly” who taped a segment about cellphones in crosswalks. In fact, he first highlighted this growing problem in 2009.

According to a 2015 report by the National Safety Council (NSC), “distracted walking incidents involving cell phones accounted for more than 11,100 injuries between 2000 and 2011.”

The NSC notes that it is “just as important to walk cell free as it is to drive cell free,” because “pedestrians and drivers using cell phones are both impaired and too mentally distracted to fully focus on their surroundings.”

Some jurisdictions have begun legislation in areas where cell phone-related distracted walking occurs. This year, the City of Honolulu, Hawaii passed a local ordinance which states that “No pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.”

The Honolulu ordinance goes into effect this month.

Here in California, as elsewhere, there is an important need for such legislation.

While traffic safety can often be a local concern that might be addressed on a street-by-street basis, the state Legislature has generally indicated that issues of traffic safety should be regulated statewide.

But, as the statistics show, the safety of pedestrians continues to be compromised by use of mobile electronic devices while crossing the street.

I’m pleased that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution I sponsored that urges the state Legislature to take action to promote traffic safety by prohibiting use of cell phones while crossing streets.

I am working with members of the State Assembly to advance this critical public safety policy.

It is my firm belief that this effort will ultimately save lives.