Sub­text of MPP’s bill is to keep pedes­tri­ans’ heads up

Leg­is­la­tion would pre­vent use of phones, elec­tronic de­vices when cross­ing the street


Acurb on tex­ting and walk­ing may be an idea whose time has come, says Premier Kath­leen Wynne.

With Lib­eral MPP Yvan Baker in­tro­duc­ing a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill Mon­day to pre­vent pedes­tri­ans from us­ing phones or other elec­tronic de­vices when cross­ing the street, the premier sug­gested it could be a part of evolv­ing road safety laws.

“Twenty years ago, no­body was walk­ing around with a phone. And, so, now, we’ve got th­ese ma­chines and I think that we need . . . to push our­selves to make sure that we have a safe cul­ture around them,” Wynne told re­porters.

“We are look­ing at a cul­ture shift,” she said at a cam­paign-style stop at The Irv gas­tro-pub in Cab­bage­town, where she was pro­mot­ing the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s labour re­forms.

Asked if there isn’t a dan­ger of On­tario be­com­ing a nanny state where Big Brother is watch­ing the ev­ery­day be­hav­iour of cit­i­zens, Wynne ar­gued that tech­no­log­i­cal changes have al­ways ne­ces­si­tated new laws.

“A hun­dred years ago, there were no stop signs, and so you prob­a­bly could have made that ar­gu­ment then. And there were no cell­phones 100 years ago,” the premier said.

“So now we’ve got this new tech­nol­ogy that is chang­ing be­hav­iour, and so, if it is chang­ing be­hav­iour to the point where peo­ple are at risk, just like hav­ing cars changed be­hav­iour to the point where peo­ple were at risk, then I think we need to look at the laws and say, ‘Do we have enough?’ ” she said.

“I’m not say­ing that this should be put in place, but I do think it’s an in­ter­est­ing idea.”

Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Steven Del Duca em­pha­sized there are no plans to in­cor­po­rate the pro­posal into the gov­ern­ment’s safety ini­tia­tives “at this point in time.”

Last year, Del Duca said, if the city of Toronto wanted to ban tex­ting and walk­ing, it could do so us­ing its mu­nic­i­pal author­ity. New Demo­crat MPP Cheri DiNovo (Park­dale—High Park), who has long ad­vo­cated for tougher laws to pro­tect pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists from dis­tracted driv­ers, dis­missed Baker’s ini­tia­tive as “a vic­tim-blam­ing bill.”

“It shows where the gov­ern­ment’s heart is; they’re try­ing to de­flect from the fact that we’ve had the worst year — 53 deaths on record — for our pedes­tri­ans,” said DiNovo.

Baker (Eto­bi­coke Cen­tre) said his goal with the Phones Down, Heads Up Act is not to un­der­play the dan­ger of dis­tracted driv­ers on their phones and other de­vices. “Toronto is al­ready one of the worst cities in North Amer­ica when it comes to traf­fic. With win­ter quickly ap­proach­ing, road con­di­tions can make it dif­fi­cult to stop,” Baker said of leg­is­la­tion that still must be de­bated and, like most pri­vate mem­ber’s bills, has lit­tle chance of be­com­ing law.

“I would like pedes­tri­ans to be aware of the risks of cross­ing the road while (they are) dis­tracted by phones and other elec­tronic de­vices. My bill would strengthen road safety by en­cour­ag­ing pedes­tri­ans and driv­ers to keep each other safe.”

Brian Pat­ter­son, pres­i­dent and CEO of the On­tario Safety League, said Baker’s bill is “con­sis­tent with the evo­lu­tion of safety in the province of On­tario.

“It fo­cuses on the risky be­hav­iour, al­low­ing for ed­u­ca­tion and en­force­ment,” said Pat­ter­son.

Un­der the bill, scofflaws would be slapped with a $50 fine on the first of­fence, in­creas­ing to $75 for a sec­ond in­frac­tion, and $125 on a third and for sub­se­quent vi­o­la­tions.

Ex­cep­tions would in­clude us­ing a phone to call po­lice, fire ser­vices or an am­bu­lance, as well as calls that be­gin be­fore a pedes­trian has started cross­ing the street.

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