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New York Mulls iPod Ban on City Streets
Posted February 8, 2007
New York Mulls iPod Ban on City Streets
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By Lindsay Martell. Updated February 8, 2007 10:36AM

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In our gadget-hungry society, where iPods have become the accessory du jour, one lawmaker wants device devotees to wake up and hear the traffic. He's pushing a proposal to make plugging in on New York streets a crime.

State Senator Carl Kruger (D), who represents the 27th district of New York, plans to introduce legislation that would ban the use of handheld devices such as BlackBerries, iPods, and portable video games while crossing streets in major New York cities, such as New York City, Buffalo, and Albany.

iPod Oblivion

Kruger claims that tuning out while plugging in is a recipe for disaster, and has resulted in several fatalities in New York's busy streets. He says "iPod oblivion" is a state in which one is unaware of a world beyond the tunes pumping into one's ears.

"What's happening is when they're tuning into their iPod or BlackBerry cell phone or video game, they're walking into speeding buses and moving automobiles," Kruger said in a statement. "It's becoming a nationwide problem."

While he has not cited statistics indicating an increase in these types of accidents that might coincide with media player sales data, he pointed to the death of a 23-year-old Brooklyn man who donned his iPod headphones and walked into the path of a city bus.

Since September, three pedestrians in the Brooklyn area have been killed by traffic while using an iPod. In one case, according to Kruger, a plugged-in device blocked someone from hearing warnings from fellow pedestrians to stop.

"You can't be fully aware of your surroundings if you're fiddling with a BlackBerry, dialing a phone number, playing Super Mario Brothers on a Game Boy, or listening to music on an iPod," Kruger said.

Under the bill, pedestrians and bicyclists caught using any kind of electronic device while crossing a street would be hit with a $100 fine. Walkers, runners, and bicyclists would be able to use their devices only within the confines of city parks.

iPod Ban Opposition

Kruger is firmly behind his proposal, even if enforcement would be tough. Fans of BlackBerriess -- often referred to as "CrackBerrys" due to the powerful draw these devices have over their users -- will most certainly oppose the ban, along with other gadget lovers. Advocacy groups are already saying the proposal is a misfire because it unfairly targets pedestrians.

Noah Budnick, deputy director of advocacy for transportation alternatives in New York City, has come out against the proposal. He said that that iPods and Walkmans don't kill pedestrians; reckless driving does.

He urged elected officials not to blame pedestrians and instead focus on proactive moves -- such as extending the time for crossing streets and passing tougher laws for reckless driving and failing to yield to pedestrians -- to ensure streets are safer.

"New York City is a walking city," he said. "To somehow restrain or prevent pedestrians from engaging in everyday activities is anticity and antipedestrian."

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