In a nearly unanimous vote, the Utah Transit Authority board members have decided that “distracted walking” — at least near its public transit train tracks –is a punishable offense.
The Salt Lake Tribute reports that the 11-3 vote means crossing UTA train tracks while “talking on cellphones, listening to music with headphones, texting, ‘attending to personal hygiene’ or reading newspapers or magazines” could land you with a $50 fine — $100 if you’re a repeat offender. The logic of the majority of the board is that it’s better than getting hit by a train.
Board member Robert Hunter said that two recent accidents were people who walked into UTA vehicles themselves — they weren’t actually hit. “They actually walked into them,” he said. “That shows you how much attention has been paid.” Still,the Tribune reports there was some opposition:
[Board] member Troy Walker, a defense attorney, questioned the wisdom of it. “I struggle with criminalizing everyday conduct,” he said. “We’re going to make it a crime to have your headphones in walking along crossing the tracks. Does it really make us safer?”
The Tribune reports other board members stating it is not only protecting walkers but those operating vehicles who could suffer psychological effects from hitting someone.
The fines imposed for these infractions are civil, not criminal.