Distracted Walking Toronto

Toronto really doesn't like the proposed zombie law

A proposal to pass a law that would make it illegal to use a phone while walking in Toronto (no, seriously) has got people talking. And questioning. And arguing.

It started last week when Ontario Liberal MPP Yvan Baker unveiled a private member's bill called the "Phones Down, Heads Up Act."

Debate over who should be blamed for the high number of vehicle-pedestrian collisions in Toronto has been rolling ever since.

Baker's goal with his bill is to curb distracted walking within the province by banning pedestrians from "crossing the road while holding and using a wireless communication device, electronic entertainment or other prescribed device."

If caught using a phone in traffic, offenders could receive fines as high as $125 – unless they're contacting emergency services or continuing a call that was started prior to crossing the road.

Most people recognize that road safety is a pressing issue for our city right now, but cracking down on pedestrians to alleviate the problem?

Toronto's not having it.

To start with, the facts don't add up.

"There are no studies showing a direct link between the behavioural effects of distraction and pedestrian crash risk," reads a 2016 U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report cited by Oliver Moore in The Globe and Mail.

Moore also talked to Toronto Police Constable Clint Stibbe, who said he couldn't recall a single pedestrian fatality within the past five years that could be blamed on a victim's phone use.

Even pedestrian safety groups like Walk Toronto run by Dylan Reid — have condemned the idea, characterizing it as ridiculous.

Edward Keenan argued similarly yesterday that supporting this "zombie idea" is wrong.

"We should teach our lawmakers to keep their eyes on the things that will actually make the roads safer and eliminate the vast majority of accidents," he wrote in The Star. These include "intersection and road design, speed limits, and driver behaviour."

"Much of the time, pedestrians are hit by turning or speeding cars while doing things as innocuous as attempting to cross at an intersection," pointed out Matt Elliott in Metro.

"In those cases, it’s hard to see how not having your phone out would make a difference. I guess a bit of extra attention might allow you to pull a sweet backflip to avoid a car, but acrobat training should not be a requirement for safe passage on Toronto streets."

Well put.

Lead photo by

Nikki Collett

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