Illinois bill would outlaw talking while walking

| 8/7/2008

With lawmakers in many states looking into ways to curb driving while distracted, an effort at the Illinois statehouse is focused on walking while distracted.

Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, is the sponsor of a bill that would fine people who are caught using cell phones or other wireless devices while crossing streets. Anyone foolish enough to attempt such a maneuver would risk a $25 fine.

The state already prohibits any person who has a driver’s permit or a graduated license from using any cell phone while driving. It exempts emergency calls.

Advocates say the ban on talking while walking is needed to help curb potential run-ins on sidewalks and roadways. They say that just as it is distracting to drive while talking or “texting,” it is dangerous for people to cross streets with their attention focused on another task.

One incident cited occurred a year ago in Elmwood Place, OH. A teenager was struck and injured by a train as he sent a text message from his cell phone. Oblivious to the train’s horns, he walked around crossing gates, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Others say it is much more common for people to need medical attention after tripping on curbs and sidewalks because they were busy talking or texting.

The outlook is not good for the bill. HB4520 has remained in the House Rules Committee since March.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor