No More Dancing in the Streets

Turn your cell phone off in Bronx, Brooklyn’s iPods out of sight
Crazy taxi cab in Harlem, iPod Zombies are in fright
Peds love iPods they’re so proud, but the volume is too loud!
Car 54 where are you?
(With apologies, based on the theme from the “Car 54 Where Are You?” TV show, 1961-63)

I don’t mean to make light of a bad situation (pedestrians getting killed while crossing the streets of New York City), but the reaction of lawmakers can border on the ridiculous. A state senator from Brooklyn plans to introduce legislation that would ban people from using an MP3 player, cell phone, Blackberry or any other electronic device while crossing the street in New York City and Buffalo. With the popularity of the iPod, and the fact that two victims were iPod listeners, the news media headlined the story as an anti-iPod law.

In fact there are already state laws banning cell-phone yakking while driving as well as other distractions, such as smoking, using OnStar, and just plain driving while drowsy (see “After We Ban Driving While Drowsy, Can We Just Ban Legislating While Stupid?” by Mike on TechDirt). Many of us ignore these laws, and police generally treat them on a par with jaywalking offenses. But the proposed legislation may be the first to blame the victim — in this case, the iPod Zombie. According to the Urban Dictionary, an iPod Zombie is an iPod-using pedestrian (typically of New York) that unknowingly risks becoming street pizza by attempting to adjust the perfect song and volume intensity while wandering into the street against the crosswalk signal.

Folks, you may want to consider consigning your noise-reduction headphones to plane and train trips and switch back to ones that let you hear a little of what’s going on around you. Seriously, stupidity should not be rewarded with laws that inhibit our personal liberties. Lawmakers and the police have better things to do with their time and our tax dollars. The best response I’ve read in the blogosphere comes from Michael Rose in The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW), “Welcome to Brooklyn — now turn off that iPod“: “Perhaps, instead of criminalizing stupidity (which rarely works), a targeted PR campaign on the subways could remind iPod users to ‘turn down & tune in’ while they navigate the mean streets. Anyone want to design the poster?”


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