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Distracted walking ban is a zombie idea that has infected the brains of reasonable people: Keenan

On Friday, Nov. 3, eight pedestrians were hit by motor vehicles in Toronto before noon — one of them a 2-year-old child, another in a hit and run, yet another was a woman taken to hospital in life-threatening condition. On Tuesday night, Oct. 31, a 14-vehicle crash resulted in a fiery explosion on Hwy. 400 killed three people, apparently after a fuel tanker truck “approaching the area where traffic had slowed appeared to have crashed through other vehicles, setting off a chain reaction.”

So, naturally, a public debate about road safety is in order. And for much of the past week, we’ve been having one, centred on . . . well, let me see. Ah, right, here it is:

We’ve been debating whether Ontario should follow Honolulu’s lead in adopting a “Zombie Law.” I gotta say, I honestly don’t know if the undead will be deterred by the threat of a provincial offences fine, though anything that will slow their relentless march through the hellscape of the post-apocalypse is worth a — hold on.

Right. It seems what we’re talking about is not literal zombies, but instead those who text or use their phones while walking, especially while crossing the street. One Hawaiian city has banned the practice, and there are those who think we should follow suit.

“Distracted walking” is the less apocalyptic term, and I see I’ve addressed it before, one year ago this week, actually. But apparently it needs addressing again, because this is kind of a “zombie idea,” in that it keeps resurfacing from the grave, and periodically feasts on the brains of decent, otherwise reasonable people.

Like Liberal MPP Yvan Baker, who proposes a private member’s bill to formally ban texting and walking, and Premier Kathleen Wynne, who may be entertaining supporting it. And like my esteemed colleagues Emma Teitel and Martin Regg Cohn, who have written supporting the idea. These latter two, at least, are smart people and good writers, though in this case they are wrong.

Let’s take Teitel’s argument first, since it is so amusing and fun, as arguments go. She writes that a ban on texting and walking would help us all avoid the “soul-crushing looks of disapproval from old people that no one should ever have to bear.”

I would just point out that applying this things-some-stereotype-of-our-grandparents-disapprove-of principle more broadly would, if the chatter down at the Country Style is any indication, also mean banning “that noisy rap crap” from the radio, require most of us to hike up our pants and stop hiking up our skirts, and force us to get out of bed early on the weekend to “catch the worm.” This isn’t a legislative agenda I would welcome, really.