Open Discussion: Hey, I’m Texting Here!

“Sammy, stop!” I shout as my son pedals down the sidewalk. It wasn’t an intersection that he was looking to race through, but one of the many curb-cut driveways that dot the last block between our residence and the market.

They have not updated this book to have Mr. Rabbit checking his Twitter feed.

This morning, while Sahra and I were having our somewhat regular Google Hangout, we were talking about the recent spate of coverage of distracted driving and walking news pieces. Most of the time, the stories focus around texting, but now a days texting is just short hand for “doing anything on the phone that isn’t talking or taking a picture.”

As usual, Sahra made the best point of the conversation. She noted that these articles all miss the major point, where are people choosing to use their phone rather than pay attention to their surroundings. She used the example of parents and kids darting across Vermont in an unmarked crosswalk but since the crossing was unmarked, they were completely aware of their surroundings. I used the example of Sammy and and me on the wide sidealks in West L.A, where he was completely unaware there could be danger as long as he was off the street.

I walk that block regularly without a toddler on a bicycle, and am often on the phone. I don’t text when I’m walking, but I have a tendency to take work calls whole also pushing a stroller.

Here’s our question for today’s discussion: Where do you you see drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists distracted by their phones, and what’s the best thing we can do to get people to pay attention to the road?

LADOT wants to remove some crosswalks, because they “give pedestrians a false sense of security,” and perhaps encourage people to step off the sidewalk without looking both ways.

The Los Angeles Times ran both an article and a commentary by Pat Morrison on the first world scourge of texting while walking. The articles are both wonders of L.A. based media thinking, and Morrison’s piece almost reads like parody.

Except she’s serious.

And she wants to see more ticketing of pedestrians who are using their phones. She doesn’t seem concerned about ticketing drivers in increased numbers because L.A.’s drivers are so awesome about sharing the road. Again, she’s serious.

Meanwhile, Slate released a new Werner Herzog video this weekend showing how texting-while-driving crashes destroy the families of victims, but rarely result in jail time for those who choose watching their phone over watching the street and crash their car.

While it’s always incumbent on drivers to pay attention while behind the wheel, the reality is that its the people walking or on their bicycle that bear the brunt of a crash, and will for years. Both drivers and other road users need to pay attention as they move about the city. Drivers so that they don’t hurt someone. Everyone else so that they don’t get hurt by the drivers that fail to pay attention.

  • Anonymous

    Pedestrians need a special hand signal that means “I’m about to cross here” that motorists must stop for, because right now pedestrians are forced to wait for a break in motor traffic (if any) before crossing at an unsignaled intersection. Trying to cross at an unmarked crosswalk is even worse, because motorists don’t expect pedestrians to cross there.

    And the police need to conduct crosswalk stings at both marked and unmarked crosswalks.

  • Josef

    I think the hand signal is way too much burden placed on the pedestrian. That’s like putting the little flags out, for people to wave down motorists. Ideally, at any legal crosswalk, pedestrians should be able to simply cross the street. They’ve got the right of way, isn’t that what that means? If pedestrians can’t just start walking, that means drivers are going too fast, and are not prepared for one of the events that they are legally responsible to be prepared for. The fact that there’s almost no street in the country where pedestrians can cross in this way means that something is wrong with the street, not “crazy LA drivers” or people walking while texting.

  • Anonymous

    “Ideally, at any legal crosswalk, pedestrians should be able to simply cross the street. They’ve got the right of way, isn’t that what that means?”

    No, pedestrians cannot enter the crosswalk if it puts them “into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

    This means, in heavy traffic, a pedestrian cannot enter the crosswalk at all. A hand signal would resolve the problem, forcing drivers to yield the right of way without putting the pedestrian in danger.

  • Josef

    Yeah, but the very first paragraph of that law says that a driver has to stop for a pedestrian crossing the street. So a pedestrian should be able to approach the crosswalk and expect that drivers will stop. You’re right, the ped shouldn’t walk into traffic without looking and expect to be ok, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok for drivers to keep right on going.

    Sorry for the two week delay.

  • Anonymous

    The first paragraph says a driver only has to stop if the pedestrian is already in the street. Approaching the crosswalk isn’t sufficient, you have to be in the crosswalk.