The State Senate recently introduced a new bill that would make it illegal for people to cross streets in the state while staring at their smartphone. Despite the lack of evidence that personal electronic devices used on the streets cause traffic accidents, state lawmakers want to outlaw the use of messaging or gaming apps in crosswalks. The fines could range from $25 to $250 depending on the number of offenses.
“This is a bill that says don’t text while crossing the street, wait the 10 seconds to get to the other side,” Queens Senator John Liu said.
A similar bill was proposed in the Assembly in 2018 but did not make it out of committee.
The new bill would define a whole new traffic law—VTL 1158—which would fine individuals between $25 and $50 for a first offense of crossing the street while using a portable electronic device. It bumps up the fine to between $50 and $100 for a second offense in 18 months and between $50 and $250 for a third and subsequent offense.
As it stands, the bill includes exceptions for police officers, firefighters, emergency personnel and medical professionals.
The proposed law references VTL 1122(d), the violation used to fine drivers for texting while driving, in defining what is considered a “portable electronic device.” It also explicitly defines “using” as “holding a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or, for the purpose of present or future communication: performing a command or request to access a worldwide web page, composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, instant messages, or other electronic data.”
So far, the bill has yet to receive a vote and there is no way to know if it will make it through the Assembly.