Nova Scotia

Should distracted walking be illegal in Nova Scotia?

Most respondents of a survey by the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia want to make crossing the street while using a cellphone illegal.

Most respondents of a crosswalk safety survey want cellphone use outlawed while crossing the street

Half of those surveyed blamed car-pedestrian collisions on distracted drivers, but 68 per cent also believe there should a law against crossing the street while using a handheld device. (CBC)

A new survey on pedestrian safety shows that more than two-thirds of those who responded believe it should be illegal to cross the street while using a cellphone.

The survey was done by the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia through its website and social media. The group plans to share its results with Halifax regional council.

The questionnaire was completed by 330 people. It included seven multiple-choice questions about road safety and asked respondents to rank what they thought led to the most vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

'Inappropriate' for pedestrian to be distracted

Half of those surveyed blamed car-pedestrian collisions on distracted drivers, but 68 per cent also believe there should a law against crossing the street while using a handheld device.

"If it's inappropriate for a driver to be distracted in a roadway, I see no reason why it shouldn't be equally inappropriate for a pedestrian," said Norm Collins, president of the Crosswalk Safety Society.

Statistics released Tuesday by Halifax police show a slight increase in car-pedestrian collisions in 2016 when compared to the same period last year — 183 versus 176. That's despite at least two awareness campaigns.

Collins says pedestrians who are involved in the most collisions are between the ages of 18 and 25.

'Not realistic to enforce'

"That could be because they have fewer vehicles," said Collins, "And it could be because they are on their cellphones a lot more."

The City of Toronto tried to bring a law to make distracted walking illegal, but the Ontario government turned down the request to amend the Highway Traffic Act.

The Canadian Safety Council is not aware of any jurisdiction in North American that has such a law.  

"It's not realistic to enforce," said Lewis Smith, a spokesman for the council. "The onus should be on changing people's behaviour."

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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