It was only a matter of time: Toronto residents could soon get slapped with a fine for texting and walking.
Yes, we’re serious.
As you may recall, New Jersey first proposed a bill against texting and walking back in March. Now, Toronto has a similar idea.
Yesterday, councillors voted to ask Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation to consider banning “active use” of cellphones or handheld entertainment devices while walking on “any travelled roadway.”
We’re not the only ones who find it slightly amusing.
Speaker Frances Nunziata was met with chuckles from councillors when she proposed the amendment to the city’s Road Safety Plan.
“I want a recorded vote on this,” Nunziata said. “I want to see who wants to walk and text.”
“It’s a very serious motion,” she said to the laughing councillors.
Nunziata said that the fine would apply strictly to people dawdling across the street with their eyes glued to their cell phones.
She said these pedestrians – perhaps unknowingly – present a danger to themselves and others. It’s true; most have us have witnessed a few near misses thanks to pedestrians who are glued to their phones, unaware if the light is green or red and oblivious to traffic.
She said she would support a fine for texting and walking across the street that’s similar but not as high as the fine for texting and driving. Opponents of this idea say the focus needs to be on texting drivers behind the wheel, not pedestrians crossing the street.
It turns out that the joke was on the councillors, as her motion was passed by a vote of 26 to 15 with the support of Mayor John Tory.
Apparently they won’t have to seek the approval from the provincial government either.
Queen’s Park won’t stand in the way of the city in making it illegal to text while walking. Today, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the city does not need permission from the province to pass a municipal bylaw banning texting while walking.
“Road safety is our priority, but it is a shared responsibility amongst all road users. Keep your head up when crossing the road and always be aware of your surroundings,” said Del Duca.
“We have no plan to make changes to the Highway Traffic Act in response to this request,” the minister said. “Municipalities are mature levels of government with powers to establish bylaws in the best interest of their communities.
“The city of Toronto has the power to pass a bylaw similar to the one requested (Thursday).”
So it may go ahead and do just that.