Taiwan Tackles Gadget-Induced “Distracted Walking”

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 7 2014 2:29 PM

Taiwan Tackles Gadget-Induced “Distracted Walking”

464182501-pedestrian-types-on-her-smartphone-during-a-snowstorm
That'll be about $10.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

With traffic accidents caused by distracted pedestrians reportedly on the rise throughout the world, Kotaku reports that legislators in Taipei have proposed fining people for crossing the street while looking at their phones. Rooted in an apparent fear of smartphone “addictions,” the bill would enact penalties of about $10 per infraction. It evidently seeks to model a (failed) traffic bill in New Jersey. 

The biggest challenge may be defining “distracted walking.” As Kotaku writes:

legislators say anyone who has their head down looking at a screen is considered distracted. That includes texting, gaming, and websurfing. However, people are concerned that it may also include talking on the phones.
Advertisement

Texting-while-walking has been mocked around the world, with videos of people toppling into water fountains and down stairs while using their phones going viral online. The phenomenon prompted comedians to escort pedestrians around New York City, and there’s even an app that alerts smartphone users to surrounding dangers.

Mockery aside, there have been some pretty serious “distracted walker” accidents in Taiwan: This March, a young woman who was using her phone while crossing the street in the city of Kaoshuing was struck by an oncoming taxi and later passed away in the hospital. In 2013, a Taiwanese tourist had to be rescued after accidentally walking off a pier in Melbourne, Australia, while reportedly checking her Facebook page. In the United States, at least, a Pew Research survey revealed that 53 percent of cellphone users have encountered distracted walkers, and about half of 18- to 24-year olds admit to having bumped into something or someone while using their phones.

If Taiwan’s bill passes into law, the paltry fine seems unlikely to deter many of the country’s 14 million mobile Internet users. Making a real dent in the problem will probably require safety education programs, as well. As one Utah state representative quipped in the Salt Lake Tribune in 2012, in response to similar efforts in his state: “You can’t legislate [not being] stupid.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Anna Newby is a Slate intern.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Behold

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Oct. 20 2014 6:49 PM God’s Oligarch One of Vladimir Putin’s favorite businessmen wants to start an Orthodox Christian Fox News and return Russia to its glorious czarist past.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 6:48 PM Apple: Still Enormously Profitable
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.