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Over 60 per cent of Canadians support ‘distracted walking’ legislation

Support growing for distracted walking laws
WATCH: The laws around distracted driving have proven effective, so could those same rules be applied to distracted walking? As Kylie Stanton reports, it seems a growing number of Canadians think the laws should be taken a step further.

How many times have you seen someone on their phone completely oblivious to their surroundings while walking or crossing the road?

A new poll from Insights West suggests 66 per cent of Canadians say they would support “distracted walking” legislation in their municipality that would forbid the use of hand-held cell phones by people who are in a roadway and are, for example, crossing the street.

“We were quite surprised at the high level of support for distracted walking legislation, including 51 per cent of the Millennials, the ones who text the most and have grown up with hand-held cell phones,” said Mario Canseco with Insights West.

Canseco says they decided to poll Canadians on this issue because of the number of anecdotal instances and “close-calls” caused by distracted walking.

“There are a lot of people who drive a car, ride a bus or just walk and see people texting and walking,” Canseco said.

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Some Canadian municipalities have already tried to probe the ground when it comes to enforcing a “texting and walking” ban.

In July, Toronto City Council passed a motion requesting that the provincial transportation minister consider making a regulation under the Highway Traffic Act prohibiting pedestrians from “actively using a handheld wireless communication device or handheld electronic entertainment device” while on “any travelled portion of a roadway.” But the minister rejected the move.

Two Vancouver city councilors, Geoff Meggs and Heather Deal, have also voiced their support for a ban on texting while walking in crosswalks and roadways.

READ MORE: Two Vancouver councillors support ban on texting in crosswalks

Vancouver may not need help from the province to move forward with a similar ban. The city says it might be able to do it through section 317 1(a) of the Vancouver Charter, which deals with street traffic.

Transportation ministry spokesperson Kate Trotter confirmed to Global News that local governments have the authority under the Motor Vehicle Act to regulate pedestrian traffic, if they wish to do so.

The survey also found that 93 per cent of Canadians agree with every Canadian province and territory—with the exception of Nunavut—having distracted driving legislation, which forbids the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers.

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But in spite of the high level of agreement with existing distracted driving legislation, only 51 per cent of Canadians believe it has been effective in curbing the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers in their province.

“I think this really speaks to the difficulty of enforcing these laws,” said Canseco. “Unless you have a law enforcement officer in every corner, you are not going to catch everybody who is texting and driving. The fines have gone up in B.C. and other provinces, but you still have a lot of people who are reporting that they saw someone next to them who was texting and driving. It’s good to have the law in the books, but unless you can enforce it, people are going to continue looking at it as something that’s not effective.”

Results are based on an online study conducted from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8, 2016, among a representative sample of 1,013 Canadian adults, with the margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

Let us know what you think by voting in the poll below.