Walking. Texting. Combining the two evidently equals trouble. Walking while texting in New Jersey might cause you to bash into a street sign, plunge down an uncovered manhole, wander into the path of an oncoming metro bus – and if a local lawmaker has her way, saddle you with a fine and even time behind bars. Yes, so many New Jersyans are landloping about with their heads buried in their cells that a “distracted walking” measure was recently proposed by a state assemblywoman.
“I admit that I’m usually listening to music, talking on my phone or texting while I’m walking around,” said 20-year-old Jared Schumacher, according to a March 26 Associated Press report. “I’ve never hurt myself, but I’ve seen people walk into poles or trip over a big crack in the sidewalk.”
Evidently, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has seen the same, and she has since drawn up legislation that would ban pedestrians from walking while texting. The proposal also would make it a crime to be walking on a public road and using an electronic device, unless it’s hands-free. Violators would be fined $50 bucks, and or serve 15 days in the clink.
“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” Lampitt said. “An individual crossing the road distracted by their smartphone presents just as much danger to motorists as someone jaywalking and should be held, at minimum, to the same penalty.”
While being stuck behind someone who is nose down and bent-necked is certainly irritating, a study published in the UK last year along with researchers from Texas A&M University showed that texting on a smartphone while walking does change a person’s speed and gait – they tend to slow down and adopt a more protective walk.
Ticking off the business crowd as their lattes cool yes, but ensuring they don’t meander into an Italian sausage and falafel cart.
Numbers on pedestrian injuries and deaths related to texting and walking are sketchy, but a government report released in August showed that fatalities, which had been in a 30-year decline, are once again ramping up. The blame may fall on “petextrians” – people who walk while they text.
Between the 1970s and early 2000s, pedestrian deaths progressively waned, the study showed. But since 2009, fatalities have actually increased by 15 percent, climbing to nearly 5,000 in 3013.
Some states have already proposed – and rejected – similar walking and texting bills. In recent years, comparable legislation has been struck down in Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada and New York. Hawaii currently has a bill pending that would fine a person up to $250 for crossing the street while using an electronic device.
“Thus far, no states have enacted a law specifically targeting distracted bicyclists or pedestrians,” commented Douglas Shinkle, the transportation program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, “a few states continue to introduce legislation every year,” he added.
What are your thoughts? Is this unnecessary government overreach? Do you think police are willing to consistently enforce this type of law, taking their time away from more important matters? Sound off below on this proposed walking and texting New Jersey law.