The ticket issued to a woman after she was caught crossing the road staring at her phone. (Photo/Courtesy of the traffic policeman Gao Quantan)
“Hello, you just used the zebra crossing with your eyes glued to your mobile phone. According to the Wenzhou regulations on the promotion of civilized behavior, anyone who looks at their mobile phone while crossing the road shall be fined 10 yuan.”
On the morning of Jan. 14, traffic policeman Gao Quantan fined a woman who had just used a zebra crossing while fixated on her mobile phone, in Lucheng District of Wenzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province, The Beijing News reported on Jan. 17.
The phenomenon of someone focusing on their mobile phone over another person, or indeed what is going on around them, has been dubbed “phubbing.” This recent incident marks the first example of someone being issued a ticket for phubbing while crossing the road since the citywide regulations on the promotion of civilized behavior were brought into force on Jan. 1, 2019.
After the ticket was issued, a volunteer dressed up as the well-known Chinese cartoon character “Slow Sheep” gave the woman a “Slow Sheep” doll to signal that she needed to walk across the zebra crossing faster next time.
It’s dangerous for people to cross the road too slowly, or without looking where they are going, said traffic policeman Gao, who explained that “the purpose of issuing tickets is to raise public awareness.”
The case sparked heated online discussion. Some experts believe that to prevent similar behavior, appropriate laws and regulations must be implemented, while others came to the conclusion that added laws and regulations might increase the burden on law enforcement.
According to a survey conducted by China Youth Daily in 2017, 72.2 percent of respondents admitted to looking at their mobile phones while crossing the road, revealing that this is a nationwide problem.
“While issuing tickets cannot eradicate the problem, it can alert people to the consequences of their behavior and help to curb the tendency of people checking their phones at unsafe times,” Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said in an interview with The Beijing News.
Zhu noted that over the past few years, there had been many avoidable injuries and deaths caused by people looking at their mobile phones rather than where they were going.
“I think such policies are essential,” said Zhu, explaining that relevant regulations brought into force in Wenzhou endeavor to safeguard lives.
If we rely on policies, laws, and regulations to solve all social problems, we will see adverse effects, Zhu Wei, an associate professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, explained in an interview with The Beijing News, saying such policies and regulations will add to the rising costs of lawmaking and enforcement.
Zhu Wei told The Beijing News that lawmakers in Wenzhou haven’t yet offered a clear definition of phubbing, so it’s not easy to enforce.
However, Wang Jing, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, expects that regulations enacted by Wenzhou shall be enforced within the current framework of administrative laws and regulations.