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 several blogs.

30 comments
BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Who are these laws written for?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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