Should there be a solution to “smartphone zombies” or “smombies” in Rexburg, or is it not a problem? Wikipedia defined smartphone zombies as “a pedestrian who walks slowly and without attention to their surroundings because they are focused upon their smartphone. This has been reported as a significant safety hazard, as distracted pedestrians cause accidents.”
In April 2011, the city of Rexburg outlawed texting while in the crosswalk and erected signs to remind pedestrians of the law, according to Deseret News. At that time, the fine assigned to the breaking of this law was $50 for sending just one text while walking.
“The fee for texting on a crosswalk spiked to $101.50 for a first offense, the second offense almost doubles to $201.50, and any other offense after that will have a $51.50 court cost added to the previous amount,” according to a policy outlined on the Rexburg Police Department’s website.
“I imagine the fine is this steep so that it will shock people into remembering it and also cause them to question its origins,” said Eli Richardson, a sophomore studying English. “There were probably multiple people that died because they were texting while crossing the crosswalk. What is the value of a human life?”
Other students believe it will teach a lesson but aren’t too keen on paying the pricey fine.
“We are college students and we don’t always have $100 to spare, so I think $50 for the first time offense is more reasonable,” said Emily Adams, a senior studying art. “The offense is more than a speeding ticket in Idaho. A speeding ticket in Idaho, if you’re going 10 mph over, is $90.”
Not everywhere in America has outlawed texting the way it is in Rexburg. However, there are some countries that are getting fed up with “smartphone zombies.” In China they’ve “divided a sidewalk on one of its busiest streets into two lanes — one for cellphone users and the other for those without,” according to CNN.
A Chinese newspaper predicted smartphone users would be over 500 million by the end of 2014. Meanwhile, Idaho’s Internet usage is up to 82 percent as of 2016, according to internetworldstats.com. However, Richardson said Rexburg’s foot traffic isn’t nearly heavy enough to implement such an idea.
In South Korea, there are plans to put up signs to warn pedestrians to look up and put away their phones while in the crosswalk, according to CNN “Seoul’s Metropolitan Government says the number of traffic accidents involving smartphones have tripled over the last five years.”
Compare that to Rexburg Police Department Captain Randy Lewis’ statement from 2012 when he said, “Since we implemented the awareness and education campaign and have taken some other steps, it’s made a big difference,” according to Local News 8. “Lewis said the new ordinance has pedestrians being a lot more careful in crosswalks.”
It may be more viable for Rexburg to add similar warning signs directed toward texting pedestrians rather than drivers.
“Drivers in Rexburg don’t do a good job paying attention to pedestrians, or even road signs for that matter,“ Adams said. “I think it’s more beneficial as the pedestrian to have signs because I think I notice those signs more when I am walking than when I am driving.”
Adams said she spends about two to three hours a day on her phone, but “if you can’t put your phone down for an hour without looking at it, or interacting with it, you’re probably addicted.”