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Time to fine people for texting and walking says city councillor

CALGARY- A Calgary city councillor says people who text while walking are dangerously distracted and he’s hoping to make the practice a ticketable offence.

Ward 1 Councillor Ward Sutherland says he plans to bring up the issue with police to see what can be done about it.

“What happened in the old days where you looked both ways when you cross the street,” said Sutherland. “Now it’s ‘I have a right and I’m in my electronics, I think it’s all right now and I’m just walking.’”

Sutherland says distracted pedestrians should receive the same fines handed out to distracted drivers.

The issue of people being absorbed by their smartphones while walking isn’t unique to Calgary. Public awareness campaigns have been launched in Edmonton and Toronto to address the issue. The subject is also being studied by a number of universities and insurance companies. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has also expressed its concerns over the practice, saying distracted pedestrians are a growing danger for drivers.

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A recent U.S.-wide study from Ohio State University  revealed some startling numbers on texting and walking. It found that in 2010, an estimated 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to using a cellphone while walking.

Some say they’re concerned when they see people walking while distracted by their smartphones.

“A lot of them kind of just wander,” said Amanda Ziegler. “It’s scary because you could walk right into someone to right across the road or whatever.”

But others say they don’t think it’s a problem.

“We can’t do anything anymore,” said a woman walking downtown. “Too many rules, no freedom.”

Councillor Sutherland says while he has yet to meet with police about his proposal, officers already tell him texting and walking is a growing problem.

Ward 1 Councillor Ward Sutherland says he wants police to crack down on distracted pedestrians.
Ward 1 Councillor Ward Sutherland says he wants police to crack down on distracted pedestrians. Global News

“Our police department is saying that they are noticing people bumping into people,” said Sutherland. “They don’t know how much time is left in the cross walk etc…just saying, get some awareness.”

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