Occasionally, when driving in NYC, I play a game that works this way: If I have to do a quick maneuver to avoid hitting some fool who isn't paying attention, I award myself a number of points, depending on the danger level of the pedestrian's behavior. That guy strolling out between two parked cars without looking? Six points. That woman who doesn't feel the need to check the traffic light? Eight points. The music-lover bopping out into Times Square traffic oblivious to anything but his iPod? Game over.Apparently, N.Y. state Sen. Carl Kruger is out to ruin my fun: He's about to introduce a bill that would ban the use of any electronic device in a crosswalk. So if you need to cross the street, and you're listening to your favorite band, or using your cell to explain to your mom why you weren't home when she called at 11 p.m., or checking your BlackBerry to see if you won that eBay auction -- it could cost you a cool $100.
Now, I've got nothing against making such activities illegal while operating a moving vehicle. I get very, very nervous when I see somebody with a cell phone to one ear negotiating a three-point U-turn or moving across two lanes at 70 mph -- and if some industrious highway patrol issues them a citation, I'm happy to see it. But that's because the dolts on the phone aren't only putting themselves in danger, but their passengers, the other drivers on the road, and any pedestrians that may accidentally get in their way.
On the other hand, those of us who walk around NYC (and I'm a pedestrian as well as a driver) should already know that you've got to watch out, especially in Manhattan, where you're dealing with cars, SUVs, trucks, and taxis, all in a hurry to get from point A to point B. In fact, being an especially cautious person, I usually listen to my MP3 player using only one earbud when I'm on the move.
Yes, use advertising and word-of-mouth to impress on us how dangerous and deeply idiotic it is to ignore our surroundings, especially when crossing a street. But adding yet another fine to the many that NYC residents can already earn (and adding yet another thing that NYC police have to pay attention to) is not the way to go.
What do you think? Do you think folks in NYC (and other cities) who use iPods to ignore street realities should be fined? Let us know. (And for another view on this same issue, check out Patricia Keefe's blog entry Digital You, Meet Nanny Government And Terrorism Fears.)