Walking across the street with your eyes riveted to a cellphone screen might soon become illegal — and it appears that the majority of Canadians are in favor of legislation which would prohibit it.
Insights West polled just over a thousand people to see if they would support or oppose banning the use of handheld cellphones while walking in roadways such as intersections. Findings indicate that 35 percent of those over 18 would strongly support such legislation, with another 31 percent saying they’d be somewhat in favor. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus or minus 3.1 percent.
According to Insight’s Vice President of Public Affairs Mario Conseco, the age breakdowns in the survey are revealing. He says both men and women gave thumbs up to legislation in similar numbers, but there were sharp differences across the three demographics, with older adults showing the strongest support for new rules. “Baby boomers who probably haven’t been texting that much … who look at this as a distraction, who look at this as something that could cause insurance problems down the road,” he says.
An unexpected result was agreement by the majority of the 18 to 34 group, at 51 percent. “It’s a little more of a close split than what we see with generation X or boomers, but even they, who grew up texting, are actually aware of the dangers they could be walking into without this type of legislation.”
He notes, though, that the majority of those who are strongly against legislation are millennials.
The across-the-board strong support has Canseco suggesting that municipal governments should seriously consider the survey’s outcome. “It took us a couple of decades to figure out the dangers of driving while you held a cellphone in your hand. Maybe this is a good starting point to try to figure out whether we have mandatory regulation that makes you stop texting or using your phone before you cross the street.”
Officials in some Canadian cities are eyeing up new legislation, and others have already tried to put it in place. Toronto city council passed a motion in July asking the province’s transportation minister to effect a ban, but were told later that the city actually has the power to adopt its own municipal bylaw. Following that, a Vancouver councillor came out in support of a ban — and a couple of years ago, a Calgary councillor asked the city and police to consider fines for distracted walkers.
A provincial ban is probably not in the cards for British Columbia. The Minister Of Public Safety says it will most likely be up to individual local governments, which have the authority to regulate pedestrian traffic, to proceed if they want to.