• Montclair, California, has implemented a local law banning "distracted walking."
  • Anyone looking at their screen while crossing the street is liable for a fine.
  • It's more than R1,000 ($100) for the first time, then $200, then $500 after that.
  • You can also get stung for talking on the phone or listening to music.

A small town west of Los Angeles is fining people well over R1,000 ($100) for crossing the street while staring at their phones.

Montclair, which is around 50 kilometres from central Los Angeles, has passed a so-called "distracted walking" law, which mandates officials to issue fines to people they see focussing on their screen instead of the road.

Anybody who breaks the ordinance, Municipal Code 8.28.020 (A), will be fined $100 the first time, $200 the second time, and $500 a time after that.

That comes in just a hair under R6,000 at current exchange rates for the third offence.

You can also fall foul of the rule by taking a call on your phone, or crossing the street while listening to music.

The official City of Montclair website runs a page explaining the new law, which includes this explanatory graphic:

The law has been in effect since 3 January, but seems to have gone unnoticed for its first couple of months.

Montclair's new idea got widespread coverage this week, however, with city figures speaking out to defend it.

Jon Hamilton, who's in charge of Montclair's administration services, told the LA Times: "We had been discussing this issue, just safety in general, as we're seeing people blindly walking across the street, staring at their phones without paying attention.

"It's an issue that has become more and more prevalent based on the increased usage of cellphones, particularly among younger residents."

Others pointed out that similar laws already exist elsewhere, including one in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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