Look Alive, Cell Phone Zombies — Honolulu to Ban Texting While Crossing a Street

Come October in Honolulu, people looking at their phone in a crosswalk could be slapped with a fine. Westend61/Getty Images

Many people in the world have walked into some kind of obstacle while looking at their phone. Light poles, trees, holes in the sidewalk — we've all been there. But while some of these pratfalls are the stuff of sitcoms, there's no doubt that it's a real problem if you're walking through traffic.

Honolulu is a famously tourist-friendly city, which means there are a lot of people walking and staring at their phones to figure out the route to the slightly tacky but totally satisfying chain restaurant or the famous but pricey seafood joint. But if you are living in or visiting the Hawaiian city, beware: The mayor of Honolulu recently said that come October 2017, staring at GPS directions or texting a friend your dinnertime decision while you cross a street will get you a fine.

Kirk Caldwell, the mayor of Honolulu, said that the city has one of the highest rates of pedestrian crosswalk accidents in the county. And a 2013 study by researchers in Ohio showed that pedestrian injuries related to cell phone use in the U.S. increased significantly from 2005 to 2010, while total pedestrian injuries during that period dropped.

In order to ease the high rate of injuries, the Honolulu Police Department will be issuing fines for anyone using a mobile device while crossing the street. The tickets will cost you from $15 to $99, depending on how many times you've been cited for the infraction. In other words, if cops have caught you once or twice already for the violation, get ready for a bigger bill.

Honolulu is the first major city in the U.S. to institute this kind of law, but there have been other initiatives to keep people from crossing roads while distracted: Texting while in a crosswalk is illegal in Rexburg, Idaho, and the Utah Transit Authority can fine people $50 for "distracted walking" when crossing light rail tracks.

But do not fear — if you're having an emergency when crossing a street in Honolulu, you're not going to get fined for a call or text. That said, emergencies don't include frantically trying to locate the best poké in town.