New law would require that you be immobile when looking at your mobile phone.

Back in January, researchers working for the city of Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, went out to two stations in town, Yamato Station and Chuo-Rinkan Station, to do some people watching. At each station, they waited for 6,000 people to pass by, then crunched some numbers and calculated that 12 percent of them had been looking at their smartphones while they were walking.

That’s apparently too high a number for some politicians in the town of roughly 240,000 people, especially when coupled with what they claim is an increase in the number of injuries caused by such distracted walking over the past year. So in June, the Yamato city council will vote on a proposal to make walking while looking at a smartphone illegal.

The ordinance, which would be the first of its kind in Japan if passed, defines the offending behavior as “walking while gazing at the screen of a smartphone or other device.” The legal framework would make doing so a violation of the Road Traffic Law, which apparently covers pedestrian traffic in addition to the vehicular sort. The scope of the new law would cover city streets and sidewalks as well as “shared public spaces” such as plazas outside train stations.

Instead of looking at their screens while walking, the proposed ordinance instructs citizens to “use your smartphone while standing still in a place where you won’t be a hindrance to others passing by.” However, as with the legal cap on allowable video game playing time in Kagawa Prefecture, the anti-walking-while-using-a-smartphone ordinance currently has no form of enforceable punishment built into it.

Should the proposal meet with the council’s approval, the new law would go into effect very quickly, on July 1. If not, we can always look to our toilet paper for leadership on such public safety matters.

Source: Yamato City via IT Media
Top image: Pakutaso 
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