Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lawmakers States pay attention to the dangers of distracted pedestrians

That is the theory of various lawmakers pushing the latest generation of law treat as devices such as iPods and mobile phones affect traffic safety. The ubiquity of interactive devices has propelled the science of distraction — and now efforts to legislate against it — from the machine and the exercise routine.

In New York, a Bill is pending in the Transport Committee of the legislature that would prohibit the use of mobile phones, iPod, or other electronic devices during the crossing of roads — runners and other exercisers included. Pending legislation in Oregon would limit cyclists from using cell phones and music players, and a Virginia Bill would maintain those drivers from using a "portable communication device".

California State Senator Joe Simitian, who led a fight effectively ban motorists from sending text messages and the use of mobile phones, has reintroduced a bill that failed last year to beautiful cyclists $ 20 for multitasking.

"The big thing was distracted driving, but now it is the movement in other ways technology can distract, everyday things," said Anne Teigen, a political expert for the National Conference of State legislatures, tracking legislative developments.

Tuesday, exercising in Central Park, Marie Wickham, 56, said he understood what all the fuss was about, "you are zigging, they are lined up, don't know what is around them. Can certainly be dangerous. "

But MS Wickham added that it was opposed to any prohibition on such devices. "I think that is a violation of personal rights," he said. "At some point, we need to take responsibility for our stupidity."

Pedestrian fatalities is slightly increased for the first time in four years during the first half of 2010, according to a report released last week by the Governors Highway Safety Association, an organization based in Washington, which represents the security agencies of the State Highway.

Between States, Arizona and Florida had the largest increase in pedestrian fatalities, followed by North Carolina, Oregon and Oklahoma. Nationally, victims of pedestrian traffic had dropped to 4.063 in 2009 by 4,888 in 2005, said the report.

"One of the reasons we believe that the trend may be turning negative because of distracted pedestrians," said Jonathan Adkins, spokesperson of the security group.

The Bill was proposed in New York State Senator Carl Kruger, a Democrat of Brooklyn, which grew alarmed by the amount of distraction that he sees on the streets in his neighborhood and the city of New York. Since September, Mr. Kruger wrote in the Bill, three pedestrians were killed and one was wounded during the crossing of the streets and listen to music through headphones.

"We are taught by Calzificio to look in both directions, listen, listen, and then pass through," he said. "You can run any of these functions if you are engaged in a sort of wired activities."

HAL Pashler, Professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, said that listening to sound through two headsets create a very powerful type of "auditory masking" drowning external sounds. This masking is not only directly in the ear, even accidentally, in the sense that sound floods the brain, even when a person tries to listen to something — say, traffic.

"It's even more overwhelming type muiltitasking that we normally costs," said Mr. Pashler.

As written, the proposal of Mr. Kruger, which was introduced in 2007, would apply only to cities with populations greater than or equal to one million. But Mr. Kruger wants to expand the Bill to cover even small towns. Violators would face a civil citation and a $ 100.

"This is not government interference," he said. "This is more like saying," you're doing something that might be harmful to yourself and others around you. ' ”

But some outdoor exercisers that rely on music for a boost see proposals as little more than a distraction for public safety officers. "Chasing down the runner who has his headphones instead of chasing down the driver who was at the local pub, sounds like you're trying to collect the low-hanging fruit," said John Wiant, 43, a racer from Newport Beach, California

In Arkansas, an avalanche of criticism on Tuesday brought a lawmaker to withdraw a proposal that would have banned pedestrians wearing headphones in both ears. Other legislators have tried to strike a balance between public safety and the seriousness of the crime.

In California, Mr. Simitian offers $ 20 fine on cyclists who send text messages and a $ 30 increase worth $ 20 to do the same task while driving a car, a difference that he said reflects the risk related to behavior poses to others.

"At some point," he said, "you'll just rely on the good judgment of the people as they go through their daily lives."

Mr. Simitian added that he believed that efforts to legislate against distraction out of the car could decrease the severity of the campaigns fought and laws meant to curb distracted driving.

"There's a problem out there with the distracted pedestrians? I would be the first to admit it, "he said. But, he added, "it is appropriate to distinguish between 4,000 pounds of steel and glass that you and a pawn which might also put at risk but probably less of a risk poses to the public in General."

Andrew Keh, Ian Lovett and Evin Demirel contributed reporting.

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