Can Hong Kong follow Honolulu to stop smartphone zombies in their tracks?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 9:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 7:25pm

Everywhere you go in Hong Kong, you see people looking down – at their smartphones. Their eyes are always glued to the device, as if they are afraid of missing important messages and calls.

However, this is a risky trend, as it also causes accidents, people may walk unwarily into oncoming traffic or bang their head on a lamp post. Worse still, being distracted, they may not notice and fall down a flight of stairs and be seriously injured.

Singapore recently came out with data on this social trend of high gadget engagement, with a study of a busy pedestrian crossing. The results revealed that, in 20 minutes, 10 waves of people crossed the road; one wave had 25 people, and on average 13 of them were occupied with their smartphones while waiting for the lights to turn green, while five continued to look down at their phone while crossing the road. The scene is not much different in Hong Kong, as we know.

This is really dangerous and irresponsible behaviour that can endanger not only our own but other people’s lives as well, and governments should bring in harsh punishments for such acts.

I strongly urge the Hong Kong government to follow the bill that was passed recently in the US state of Hawaii.

As of October 25, police in state capital Honolulu have been empowered to fine people viewing an electronic device while crossing the road. The new “distracted walking law”, the bill for which was signed in July, says the only reason for a pedestrian to use their phone or other gadget on the crossing or highway would be to call 911, the US emergency number. First-time offenders face fines of US$15 to US$35, which goes up to US$75 to US$99 for repeat offenders.

Since July 1, 2000, motorists have been prohibited in Hong Kong from using hand-held mobile phones, or holding phones between the head and shoulder, whether communicating or not, while their vehicles are in motion. I believe that pedestrians too should also have to bear certain similar responsibilities while crossing the road.

If we only concentrate on our smartphones and do not pay attention to road conditions, we may have to pay a heavy price. We may be injured, and a serious injury may leave us paralysed or worse. I sincerely hope that the government will pass a law to control smartphone addicts, so as to warn them of the dangers of being engrossed in such equipment while crossing the road.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Shanghai