Yesterday's notification brought me news from the City of Baguio in the Philippines. The City Council has calendared for second reading an ordinance that will restrict pedestrians from walking across streets while distracted. The Philippine News Agency reports:
The city council here is hearing a proposed ordinance, authored by the Councilor Scout Official For a Day (SOFAD), that prohibits and regulates the use of mobile devices and other distractive devices while walking and crossing the streets and sidewalks to ensure public safety.
“The said ordinance aims to prohibit pedestrian walkers (from using) any distract(ive) tools that could lead them to an accident," Councilor Peter Fianza, member of the Committee on Public Protection, Safety, Peace and Order, said in an interview Tuesday.
The proposal was calendared for second reading during Monday’s regular council session.
Fianza said once approved, the ordinance requires all pedestrians to be vigilant when they walk on the street and not to use gadgets, such as mobile phones, books and other objects “that distract someone’s line of sight.”What is this about a Councilor Scout Official For a Day?
The city government has institutionalized the scouting program during October, annually giving boy and girl scouts, from elementary to high school who are enrolled in private or public schools, to sit as officials for a day after a screening process conducted by the Girl and Boy Scouts of the Philippines.I see. Well, since there is no link to the ordinance, and since the City website's link to the legislative monitoring system appears to be broken, do we know exactly what kind of conduct the ordinance bans, and, in particular, whether the ordinance defines "distractive devices?"
[I'm afraid not. Like nearly all journalists, I refuse to put a link to the text of the ordinance in my story even though this would be very helpful to readers, particularly those who read and apply laws for a living and who may provide more in-depth commentary on the law or case being discussed].Shoot. Well do we at least know what sort of punishment there would be for a violation of this ordinance? I'd guess that the penalties aren't that high, since comparable laws and proposals in the United States only involve relatively low fines like $20.00 per violation.
Once approved as an ordinance, violators will be meted a penalty of a PHP1,000 fine or render community service for the first offense . . .Okay, PHP1,000 seems to be about $19.00 in US dollars--
. . . PHP2,000 and community service for the second offense or one to 10 days imprisonment; and PHP2,500 and community service or imprisonment of 11 to 30 days for the third offense.Ouch! Where would someone get an idea for a law like this in the first place?
Fianza said the concept of the proposed ordinance was based on the anti-distracted walking measure in Honolulu, Hawaii.As far as I can tell, Honolulu was the first city in the United States to ban "distracted walking" while crossing the street, and it has kicked off a bit of a trend of other cities and at least one state (Connecticut) considering or enacting similar bans. This is the first instance of which I am aware where a city in a different country has proposed a similar ban that is explicitly inspired by Honolulu's ban.
Notably, though, this is not the first time a ban like this has been proposed in Baguio. The Herald Express reported in December 2017 that City Councilor Leandro B. Yangot, Jr. proposed a similar ban, although that report indicated that the measure would prohibit a person from crossing "a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device in a manner that averts his or her visual attention to the said device." Again, this is only a quote from the report, as I cannot locate the text of that previous ordinance. The penalties for that 2017 proposed ordinance would have been:
[C]ommunity service of 15 days for the first offense, community service of 30 days for the second offense, and a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment or both, upon the discretion of the court, for the third offense.Tough, although I presume that this previous ordinance did not pass in light of the recent, similar proposed ordinance. The old proposal was at least a little more narrow, however, as the most recent proposal would ban looking at objects like books in addition to the typical phone or electronic device.
Without the text of the ordinance, there is not much more for me to say other than to repeat my point that such bills are misguided because they ban common practices and will likely lead to selective enforcement. They also will likely not deter people from walking while distracted, because the danger of being struck by a vehicle is apparently not enough of a deterrence. This most recent proposed ordinance is particularly notable as an example of how lawmaking in the United States -- including silly lawmaking -- may have an expansive impact, not only in other American cities and states, but in other parts of the world.