Pedestrians beware - walking with headphones on can result in fine

If you thought the basic rules for crossing the street were still limited to crossing only at the crosswalk, waiting for the signal to change and looking both ways, you may have found yourself an unwitting offender during the Israel Police's March traffic crackdown. You might, for instance, be one of 13 people who found themselves paying a hefty fine for walking down the street while listening to an MP3 player. Those 13 were a small fraction of the 14,600 people nabbed for traffic and road-related offenses during a month-long National Traffic Police operation, but unlike those who failed to signal or to stop at a stop sign, the MP3 offenders paid a NIS 100 penalty that few people know is on the books. Amendment 169 to the Road Safety Law states that it is illegal to walk down the street - let alone cross it - with two headphones in one's ears. One headphone, like those used with many cellular phones, is perfectly legal. Driving with headphones is considered an even worse violation, carrying a NIS 250 fine. Police defended the crackdown as being for pedestrians' benefit, and explained that March's strict enforcement of pedestrian laws was part of a three-pronged approach to increase pedestrian safety, implemented after police noted a steep rise in pedestrian casualties, said Traffic Division spokesman Ch.-Supt. Doron Ben-Amo. Since the beginning of 2008, 35 percent of those injured or killed in vehicle crashes have been pedestrians. Ben-Amo said that the enforcement aspect of the campaign mostly targeted teenagers and adults, but also added that the largest risk groups for pedestrian casualties were young children and the elderly. To that end, he said, traffic police have also launched a PR and educational campaign, with commercials on both television and radio as well as outreach projects, in which police officers lecture about road safety in elementary schools and in old-age homes.