Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Use an Ipod in a New York crosswalk? $100 fine

First it was cell phones in cars, then trans fats. Now, a new plan is on the table to ban gadget use while crossing city streets.

We all seem to have one -- an iPod, a BlackBerry, a cell phone -- taking up more and more of our time, but can they make us too distracted to walk safely? Some people think so.

If you use them in the crosswalk, your favorite electronic devices could be in the crosshairs.

Legislation will be introduced in Albany on Wednesday to lay a $100 fine on pedestrians succumbing to what State Sen. Carl Kruger calls iPod oblivion.

"We're talking about people walking sort of tuned in and in the process of being tuned in, tuned out," Kruger said. "Tuned out to the world around them. They're walking into speeding cars. They're walking into buses. They're walking into one another and it's creating a number of fatalities that have been documented right here in the city."

Pedestrians have been hurt and killed in the manner Kruger describes. Not surprisingly, though, iPod users are less than thrilled with the senator's proposal.

"That's not a distraction," said one woman, iPod securely implanted in her ears. "You have your iPod in your ears and you're crossing the street, you are looking with your eyes. You don't have to hear anything, really ... I guess."

Added another New Yorker: "It's a terrible idea. It's outrageous."

Kruger said not so fast.

"If you want to listen to your iPod, sit down and listen to it," Kruger declared. "You want to walk in the park, enjoy it. You want to jog around a jogging path, all the more power to you, but you should not be crossing streets and endangering yourself and the lives of others."

Kruger's bill would only apply to big cities across New York state. We don't know what kind of support it has in Albany, but he hopes that the New York City Council, which has already banned indoor smoking and trans fats in restaurants, will pick up the cue.