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You’ve no doubt heard the expression "She can’t walk and chew gum at the same time". It may seem to be just another joke insulting someone’s intelligence, but walking and using cell phones, iPods, etc. can be risky. We constantly hear about driver distractions, but what about pedestrian distractions? Pedestrians have walked into telephone poles while texting, tripped and fell while engaging in a phone conversation, and walked in front a moving vehicle while listening to music.

Preoccupied pedestrians, especially those listening to music at a high volume, risk more than hearing impairment. Their absorption can create a loss of "situation awareness" similar to that of distracted drivers. Most times, the mishaps for a distracted walker are minor, but the injuries can sometimes be serious, even fatal.

Over the last several years, there has been an increased concern over pedestrian use of portable electronics. In 2007, a state senator in New York proposed banning pedestrians from using cell phones, headphones or other portable electronics while crossing streets, recommending a $100 fine for offenders. Legislation denied the bill. Illinois made the same attempt in 2008 and failed. Legislation pending in Oregon would restrict bicyclists from using mobile phones and music players, and a Virginia bill would keep such riders from using a “hand-held communication device.”

Pedestrians, like drivers, have long been distracted by multi-tasking, such as snacking or reading on the go. We are becoming a society where many people see a single task as boring or unproductive.

Sometimes, pedestrians using their phones do not notice objects or people that are right in front of them – the term commonly applied to such preoccupation is “inattention blindness,” meaning a person can be looking at an object but fail to register it or process what it is.

Many states are receiving much criticism. A woman who exercises in Central Park said she understood what all the fuss was about – “They’re zigging, they’re zagging, and they don’t know what’s around them. It can definitely be dangerous.” But, she is opposed to a ban of such devices stating “I think it’s an infringement on personal rights. “At some point, we need to take responsibility for our own stupidity.”

We were taught as toddlers to stop, look, listen, before crossing the street. These tasks are harder to accomplish when engaged in a phone conversation, texting, or listening to music. But, do we need laws to tell us this is not safe behavior? At some point don’t we need to simply rely on our own good judgment? We can encourage people to put safety first, but we can’t place laws on common sense. What do you think?

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.


  1. Gravatar for george

    How about someone does a scientific study and figures out what is the actual reason for increased pedestrian fatalies:

    1) Pedestrian inattentive blindness

    2) Stupid road designs which have eliminated sidewalks and crosswalks at most of the places. Also, include the fact that traffic lights are farther away now and hence a lot of pedestrians cross the road in the middle. In short, reduction in safe walking places,

    3) Increase of traffic. Particularly, the fact that getting driving license and a car is much easier than before. Also, with more cars, number of pedestrians has reduced. This pinches pedestrians as they no longer have "safety in numbers"

    4) Increase in speed limits. Also, include improvement in condition of roads.

    Then lets see who is to be blamed. I am pretty sure it would be inconsiderate road designs and bad drivers.

  2. Gravatar for Joe

    Law is a funny thing. The more of it that exists, the less valuable it is. I wonder why the 10 commandments were not presented as the 100 commandments, or the 1000 commandments.

    Trivial law undermines our civilization. Of course, for the law makers, everything looks like a nail.

  3. Gravatar for Brett

    “At some point, we need to take responsibility for our own stupidity.”

    The best line in the article, and it certainly bears repeating.

  4. Shaun: I'm confused. Perhaps it is because I am an "idiot". You are not alone in feeling that way about me. What I find really confusing and insulting is that you refer to me as "typical". There is nothing "typical" about me or my body of work. Further, the article suggests that pedestrians accept personal responsibility for their innattentive behavior; why would someone who obviously doesn't like lawyers quarrel with one who tells a pedestrian to accept personal responsibility for his/her own conduct? Or, perhaps it takes one to know one?

  5. Gravatar for Christy


    You asked what others thought and I commend them for commenting, but I am not sure Shaun understood your post. Or maybe it's me. You have addressed a very valid safety concern - pedestrian distractions that can lead to injury, and you have noted what some states want to do about it. You never advocated that laws need to be in place. In fact, your ending statement says it all - safety first, good judgement and common sense.

    Shaun, instead of making such ridiculous comments, why not visit this website to utilize your time. I think you will find it well-suited for you. ttp://

  6. Gravatar for Michael Monheit

    @Shaun - What are you contributing to solving this problem with your comment about Mark? Mark has raised a legitimate questions - what needs to be done to prevent accidents? Perhaps it is not a new law, but certainly there is a need to raise awareness of both pedestrians and drivers of the dangers of "multi-tasking." I am certain of this, distraction and cars do not mix well. And I thank Mark for raising this issue and helping to raise awareness.

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