Honolula has become the first major US city to ban texting while walking across the street, reports Christian Britschgi for Reason. The mere act of "looking in the direction of the screen of a mobile device" can earn you a ticket between $15 to $99.
Interestingly, Honolulu does not have a serious problem with pedestrian deaths. "In Smart Growth America's ranking of 104 cities on their Pedestrian Death Index, Honolulu came in well below average at 82nd, with 1.76 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents," says Britschgi. So why did the City of Honolulu think it was important to pass such a law? It could be that the City wants yet another weapon in its ongoing campaign against Honolulu's homeless population.
As with many local ordinances that subject everyday behavior to civil and criminal sanctions, Honolulu's 'distracted walking' ordinance opens up residents—particularly homeless residents—to greater degree of petty harassment from law enforcement.
As Reason has covered previously, jaywalking ordinances have been used by cities before as a way of forcing homeless residents away from downtown areas and tourist attractions.
Honolulu itself has engaged in this kind of targeted enforcement under current mayor Kirk Caldwell's "compassionate disruption" policy, handing out tickets for everything from sitting on sidewalks to being on beaches after hours.
"Tickets, tickets, tickets," one Honolulu homeless woman told The New York Times in 2014, saying "The cops give you a ticket to keep you moving. And then you have to pay the ticket for sleeping in the park. It gets to you."