After Hours

Will the government decide when and where you listen to your iPod?


As you may already know, several state laws forbid the use of cell phones while driving. Well, watch out pedestrians, because legislation is right around the corner to ban the use of iPods, BlackBerrys, and cell phones while crossing the street in major cities in the United States. Check out the news story: "N.Y. lawmaker hopes to ban iPod use in crosswalks."

According to the article, "[N.Y.] State Sen. Carl Krueger... claimed that the phenomenon of 'iPod oblivion' has led to a number of fatal accidents on urban streets. While he did not cite any statistical studies that have indicated a rise in such incidents, he referred to the January death of a 23-year-old Brooklyn man who, tuned into his iPod headphones, walked into the path of a city bus.

"The bill would effectively make it illegal to use any kind of portable electronic device--a music or video player, cell phone, smart phone, gaming device, etc.--while crossing the street in cities such as New York, Albany, and Buffalo. Offenders would be slapped with a $100 fine and a criminal court summons. Joggers and bicyclists would have to limit their iPod use to city parks in which no street crossing would be involved."

I understand the philosophy behind the bill, but I think forbidding electronic device use while walking is a little extreme. Put warning stickers on the devices, create informational advertisements that educate people about the dangers of "iPod oblivion," and then let people make their own responsible--or irresponsible--decisions. Personally, I can walk, listen, and chew gum at the same time.

How far will we allow legislation to go before we are stripped of all of our freedoms? That's a pretty scary thought.... 

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

30 comments
BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Who are these laws written for?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If it was a cigarette, we'd tax it, although not at a high enough rate to cover the subsidies to Apple.

Zen37
Zen37

Although i fully understand the frustration that people experience when you are blocked on the side walk, cut off in traffic or any other illicit move made by someone who is not paying full attention to what they are doing, because they are using an electronic device, you cannot "forbid" them from doing it. This idea is ludicrous at best. I agree that a marketing campaign to sensitize the population to the ill effects of such behavior is a much better idea. Ultimately, if someone decides to cross the street while being in the "Ipod Zone", he or she is responsible for the consequences that may occur. Putting a law that forbids this is taking the responsibility out of the users hands and that's just not right.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

very few people actually use these so called hands free devices. I still see people driving with one hand and holding a cellphone in the other hand in clear view of other motorists. Yes, the police pull people over and issue them summonses, but these summonses are somehow not getting the point across to these idiot drivers that they are motor vehicle accidents waiting to happen. What the cops should do is confiscate these damned phones and blackberries if a driver is pulled over for not using a hands free device with one. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have had to swerve or slam on the brakes to avoid being hit by some distracted dumbass yaking away on his/her cellphone while driving. People are simply oblivious to the fact that talking on the cellphone, even with a hands free device, is a driving distraction, because something as simple as a domestic argument over the phone can result in a driver losing his/her composure and result in road rage against other innocent drivers or worst, a 15 car pileup because the person is too busy yelling into the phone instead of paying attention to traffic conditions.

Zen37
Zen37

I totally agree with the idea of putting a law that forbids the use of electronic devices when you drive. You are driving a one to two ton pile of steel after all But for walking, that's stretching it, don't you think?

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

The worst that can happen with someone who is using an iPod or cellphone while crossing the street is that this person will walk into someone, or worst, end up as roadkill and be on the 11 o'clock news, but then it would be the responsibility of that dumbass who wasn't paying attention when he/she was crossing the street.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

For me, this is just another example of an overreaction to a non-event. I mean how many people have died because of this? Two? Three? Five? We don't need a law that won't be enforced to stop an activity that doesn't happen in great numbers to protect a public that is not really in danger. Trying to legislate common sense is a losing battle. There are other much more pressing problems we need to address then some clueless pedestrian playing his iPod so loudly he doesn't watch where he is going.

dawgit
dawgit

But maybe another idiototic way to 'Enforce' Common Sense. I don't see that happening any time soon. (the common sense part) Do people need the freedom to be stupid? Well acording to what I see available on American TV it would seem so. Of course the oposite would be a 'Taliban' type of action. Maybe someone could just slap idiots up-side the head every time they were to do something stupid. (worked for my generation) -d

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

Remember that your rights are respected up to the point where what you do endangers others. If a significant number of people complain that this activity puts them in danger (and I'm not discussing what "significant" is) then it seems reasonable. The person who was driving the bus that hits the dumb schmuck that walked right in front of it has to live with that. Additionally, there is potential that an unaware iPod listener who steps into traffic causes a car (or cars) to swerve, potentially creating a danger to other pedestrians and drivers. One person's actions can cause injury or worse to others. That's when laws are created about it. It's necessary. Unfortunately so, but still necessary.

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

.....live with the fact that they hit some dumb schmuck that walked right in front the bus, but WAS NOT wearing an ipod, walkman, or any other "distracting" device? I don't know the answer, but I'd guess the number is significant. Using your logic, that person's walking endandered others. Therefore, let's outlaw walking.

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

Using my logic does NOT say that the person's walking endangered anyone. We also have laws that say you have to have your headlights on when driving at night. This fits into the same category. If there is no law saying you have to use common sense, then when someone steps in front of a bus that swerves to miss him and takes out 3 BMWs, then the person who really was the cause of the accident cannot be held liable for it. Then our tax dollars go to pay for the damage (to the bus and the cars - and who knows what else) and the insurance rates go up. We all pay for that person's stupidity. I prefer having recourse.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

ogling has been outlawed for a while now anyway =\ oh well, guess its only a matter of time befor they bust me for it then.

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

All other things equal, if they say the cause was the pedestrian wasn't paying attention because of the MP3 player, then I have no choice but to believe it. If that truly is the cause, and there seems to be a small rash of these lately, then something should be done about it. I don't mind what they've done. I don't much care. I see a benefit - if nothing else, it educates people of the danger of being oblivious. I don't expect the law to be enforced much - until someone who falls under that ordinance causes a death or property damage, etc. At which time they can pursue the idiot for being such. In that sense, certainly a different wording could have been issued to more accurately address the true problem - but here we all are, talking about it. That isn't a bad thing, either.

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

Wearing an ipod or some other similar device is not the cause for such an accident. If it was, then EVERYBODY doing it would cause an accident. The cause of your fictitious accident was the walker not paying attention and/or being distracted. For all you know, the ipod may not have been the cause of the distraction at all; perhaps the guy was looking at some short skirt across the street. (In which case we've have to outlaw ogling.)

jterry
jterry

If poeple had any common sense they wouldn't need these kinds of laws. So I guess driving or crossing the street without paying attention to traffic is common enough that maybe I shouldn't expect poeple to think.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

among many of the dumbasses that waste our air and space in this country and on this planet. I would call it "uncommon sense" instead, because only a handfull of people actually have any concept of sense at all.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

among many of the dumbasses that waste our air and space in this country and on this planet. I would call it "uncommon sense" instead, because only a handfull of people actually have any concept of sense at all.

carareynolds
carareynolds

Should we get more bent out of shape because: A) some some idiot defies all common sense and steps in front of a bus; B) my precious right to strap a soundtrack to my head 24 hours a day is being threatened; or C) once again, we're wasting taxpayer resources trying to legislate against stupidity? Personally, C chaps my hide far worse than either A or B. Next week they'll be passing a bill making it illegal to hit oneself over the head with a hammer. Don't they know evolution takes care of this sort of thing for free?

Leee
Leee

"How far will we allow legislation to go before we are stripped of all of our freedoms? That's a pretty scary thought..." This is hardly a new thing. A good 20 years ago Chicago (and later, I believe, the rest of the state of Illinois) banned the bike-Walkman combination after a bicyclist darted in front of a City Councilman after evidently being unable to hear traffic while distracted by the music coming from the Walkman. I was a teenager at the time, but it made sense to me. Even if it were legal, I wouldn't wear headphones outside, be it on foot or on a bike. Why? Because as a pedestrian or bicyclist, it would be no contest were you to meet a car (or assailant with all five senses clear). You need all your senses aware, and part of that is having your ears open. Of course, one can easily take this to mean that hearing-impaired people shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets, but such people are accustomed to their impairment and didn't choose it. By wearing your iPod or using your cell while crossing any street, you are putting yourself at risk. (We've all seen people run red lights and ignore pedestrians.) This is not about "being stripped of our freedoms," it's about using your head and doing our best to safeguard the public welfare. Personally I find it a scarier thought to wind up injured or dead because I was more interested in listening to something that supposedly couldn't wait than looking around me. I like my freedom of mobility.

lastchip
lastchip

You can't legislate against idiots. The loss of freedom that stupid legislation like this would impose, outweighs any safety issues. Frankly, if people are stupid enough to walk in front of a bus, they must take the consequences of their own actions.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

A democrat (of all else) NY policitian is proposing a bill to make it illegal to listen to an iPod or use a cellphone while crossing the street simply because there were a few people killed in Brooklyn, NY while listening to their iPods or talking on cellphone and walking right into traffic instead of paying attention to their surroundings. I hope this law won't pass because it's assinine to have the gov't tell us what to do. We are not children and it is our own personal responsibility to ensure our own safety and well being when crossing the street. If someone is stupid and oblivious enough to walk into traffic while listening to an iPod or yaking away on their cellphones, then this person should be run down by a speeding bus or a taxi cab. Simply put, "you can't cure stupid" with a law because nobody will abide by it and good luck trying to enforce it. Another fine example of taxpayer money being spent on bullcrap laws.

navtec
navtec

Dear Worry, I'm absolutely with you on this one! Good points all, but here's the rub, these politicians are completely out of control and they WILL pass these laws unless you the citizens of NY stand up and make your voices heard and SHUT these lunatics down. Once a law is ON THE BOOKS it is infinitely harder to get it off. Time to make an example of the idiocy this person embodies and then stay on him and next election show him the door and tell him to get a real job and a real life for a while. We're full of this garbage here in Chicago too from our little Attila - Cook County Pres. Todd Stroger to Himself - Mayor Richard Daley (and his aldermanic minions - must ban Foie Gras from restaurants) and last but not least Mr. Illinois Rock Star - Gov. Blagojevich - the state is in debt 2, 3, 5, 15 billion (it always changes) but his solution is to spend another god knows how many billions more, that's his answer to fixing it... another usefull idiot.

GSG
GSG

My mother taught me to look both ways before crossing the street. I'd say that this is a good example of Darwin in action. Also, what about the deaf? They can't hear, so will they make it illegal for the deaf to cross the street because they can't hear the bus?

jgarcia102066
jgarcia102066

This is not about "being stripped of our freedoms," it's about using your head and doing our best to safeguard the public welfare. So where is the legislation to prevent people from talking to each other within 50 feet of an intersection? I have seen many people almost get hit by a vehicle because they were so focused on their conversation, that they did not even realize they were walking onto a street. OR... How about forcing women to wear very conservative clothing in public because it could cause a man to be so distracted while crossing the street that he gets hit by a bus? There are many distractions that can cause someone to walk in front of a vehicle. It is up to individuals to be aware of potential dangers in their surroundings. There is no type of Legislation in the world that could protect us from all of the potential distractions that we face while crossing the street. By wearing your iPod or using your cell while crossing any street, you are putting yourself at risk. (We've all seen people run red lights and ignore pedestrians.) I've seen many people run red lights and ignore pedestrians and they did not have the offending ipod or cell phone in their possession. My point is this: What happens when all of the electronics, toys, books, distractions, etc. are banned for use while walking and we still have people walking in front of busses? What will we take away then? Don't try to justify ridiculous, just point to it and call it that, "ridiculous".

dawgit
dawgit

Pedestrians will have to wear orange Hats with little 'Blinkie' lights. Now that would be "Ridiculous". -d

kattoon
kattoon

Or we could just wear "DEVO" hats...and jumpsuits. We should all wear the same clothing, have the same hair color etc so no one would be distracted... oh and we would all have to drive the same indistinctive car.

dawgit
dawgit

You were a teenager? :_| thanks Lee, that makes me feel (old) so much better. :_| (and old). Are you trying to say it's NOT the Governments job to protect us from ourselves? Why, I just don't know what this (young) world is comming to. -d (silly youngsters)

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

to an individual is responsibility. When we begin to legislate safety laws, we have to decide if the loss of a citizens freedom to choose is outweighed by the potential gain, as well as the cost of enforceing that new law. To outlaw the use of a cell phone while driving, I dont like it, but I can kinda see it. But I would want to see studies on rates of serious collisions caused (undeniably) by cell phone use. befor I can say outlawing mobile phones/media devices while crossing streets, I would need to see that enough people get hurt or killed to be considered a significant portion of the population. About 28 peple a year die from snake bites, should we outlaw walking in grass and or wooded areas? People choke of hot dogs, should we outlaw hotdogs? Where do we draw the line between "safety" and freedom.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

" ... it's about using your head and doing our best to safeguard the public welfare." If each person used their head, we wouldn't need to do as much safeguarding of the public welfare. I'm capable of walking and listening to my radio at a volume that doesn't distract me from my surroundings. What if I'm getting on the bus? If I have my radio on my belt and my phones on my head, but the radio is turned off until I get on the bus, can I be arrested? How can the officer tell if I have the device on? I note the article says the legislation would in three cities. What determines which towns are effected? Population, vehicular traffic volume, square miles? There's a rule in the military, "Never give an order you know won't be obeyed." The legislative equivalent should be "Never pass a law you know is unenforceable."

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Do you wear glasses that have the small mirrors so so can see behind you? Do you carry a weapon - just in case Do you always stick to the speed limit, always Questions have to be asked...