Cook County’s attempts to mitigate the black hole debt it is in has at times, taken dark turns, such as the 321 layoffs announced last month, to somewhat comical, as in the new proposal to fine pedestrians for “distracted walking”. Aldermen Ed Burke (14th ward) and Anthony Beale (9th ward) justify this proposed ordinance on deficient grounds by citing 27 pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2017. While these figures are tragic, there is scant data to prove that distracted walking caused these deaths. Mimicking the successful passing of a similar law in Honolulu, this proposal came guised as concern for general public safety, but ultimately, fails to see the bigger picture.
Chicago personal injury attorney, Peter Zneimer, knows that distracted pedestrians, though problematic, are the least of this city’s worries and fining them is not the answer. All focus should be directed instead to promoting street safety for everyone on the street – motorists, bikers and pedestrians alike. Sustainable initiatives such as Vision Zero are already underway to reduce the occurrence of serious injuries and fatalities. It is a more prudent, long-term approach as compared to issuing fines of up to $500 to a “distracted” pedestrian. The plan is broad in scope and calls on ordinary citizens, law enforcers and the government to act more responsibly. It involves adding more pedestrian islands or refuges and bike paths and the implementation of policies geared towards the creation of safer vehicles and safer professional drivers.