The Toronto City Council is out to make the city’s roads and streets safer. That’s why it recently passed a road safety bill with some worthwhile improvements, including audible crossing signals and other pedestrian safety measures, and special provisions for areas that see more collisions than normal.
One provision that did not make it to the final law was a proposal to ban texting and walking while a person is on or crossing a road.
A good idea? There’s no doubt that you can get into a lot of trouble walking with your nose or your ear buried in your smartphone. This gentleman got off easy:
But what’s concerning is the statement councilor Frances Nunziata made: If you’re texting and driving and texting and walking across an intersection, it’s, in my opinion, the same.”
Of course it’s not, in the same way that having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 and walking on the street is not the same as driving with that same level of alcohol in the blood. What’s the difference? About 1500 kilos.
If you text and walk, or drink and walk, you might well wander into traffic and cause a collision. But the danger you pose is not anywhere near that of a car or truck piloted by someone who is distracted or impaired. We know this because the statistics tell the story: distracted driving took 69 lives in 2015, and alcohol took 45 lives on the road. Vehicles are massive and fast, and in the hands of someone who is not all there for whatever reason, they are deadly – more deadly than even a great, big, tall, heavy man could be on his own.
We don’t have numbers on how many people who texted and walked into a bad situation – like this person in the US who walked into a bear – but we doubt it caused 45 deaths in Ontario.
The point is, let’s define our safety problems sensibly. Drinking and texting while driving are real problems that need dealing with. We have ignition interlocks which prevent DUI offenders from drinking and driving, and the tech world is producing similar solutions for cellphones. And we should continue education efforts and better enforcement on both fronts.
And meanwhile, of course, watch where you walk.