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Chicago might be the next city to enact 'distracted walking' law

Chicago may become the next city to make distracted walking illegal. (Photo credit should read EUGENE TANNER/AFP/Getty Images)

What's the story?

Two Chicago aldermen introduced a proposal Wednesday that would make it illegal for pedestrians to use their mobile device while crossing the street. The ordinance would allow police officers to cite pedestrians caught in the act, and violators could face fines ranging from $90 to $500.

According to Edward Burke, one of the council members who proposed the measure, the goal is to make Chicago streets safer. "The goal of the introduction of this measure is to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries, especially at crosswalks,” Burke said.

"Passage and enforcement of this new law would increase safety by eliminating distractions for pedestrians at intersections and elsewhere in the city of Chicago," added the other sponsor of the bill, Ald. Anthony Beale.

If passed, Chicago will join Honolulu and San Mateo County, California, who have already enacted similar laws. The state of California also plans to consider legislation in January.

Is there evidence to support the claim that this ordinance will make Chicago streets safer?

According to the World Health Organization, people who text and walk are almost four times more likely to engage in at least one dangerous error, such as forgetting to look both ways before crossing the street or jaywalking. Additionally, distracted walkers take 18 percent more time to cross the street than an undistracted walker.

The city's Pedestrian Advisory Committee reported that 27 pedestrians have already been killed in the streets of Chicago in the first half of 2017. Twenty-six pedestrians had been killed during the same time period last year.

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