Texting while driving can prove deadly for the driver and everyone around them. It only takes a moment of distraction behind the wheel for an accident to happen, but it’s not just drivers that need to be more careful. It doesn’t matter if someone’s handling a multi-ton vehicle or their own two feet, if people are distracted and on the road, the results can be lethal. To minimize distraction a New Jersey bill is proposing to penalize people for walking while texting, according to SELF on March 23.
Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise and a lot of that blame has fallen on smartphone use. Tens of thousands of pedestrians are in emergency rooms every year and some researchers believe as many as 10 percent of those are due to cell phone distracted incidents. An exact figure is difficult to determine, as people are required to self report the conditions of their accident and some people might be less inclined to report if it’s somewhat embarrassing.
The problem is so prevalent that apps like Type n Walk exist to allow people to text and use the phone’s camera to see what’s in front of them. It’s not just texting, watching YouTube videos, checking emails, playing games, and listening to music also lead to accidents. A recent study from the University of Alabama found that of all these activities listening to music while crossing the street is the most dangerous. In their study they found that one in four people were unable to safely cross the street while texting, while one in three were unable to safely cross while listening to music. If New Jersey wants to penalize distractions it might have to include banning walking while listening to music as well.
New Jersey is not the first state to attempt to ban texting while walking. Other states have tried to pass similar bills, but have failed to make it law. New Jersey is currently reviewing the bill, but even if it did make it through it is difficult to imagine wasting the resources to enforce such a law. Instead of penalizing the act some states have tried to raise awareness of the issue. Philadelphia, for instance, launched the “Road safety not Rocket Science” campaign. The campaign spoke to many citizens on the street, used social media, and even handed out mock tickets to people who were looking at their phone instead of where they were going.
Making it unlawful for someone to text while walking would be akin to making it illegal for someone to walk while drunk. It is doubtful the bill will pass, but at the very least it will help more people understand just how serious the issue has become.