New Jersey wants to fine and jail people for walk-texting

Confession time: I sometimes text and walk. This resulted in a cracked screen one night when I managed to walk straight into a streetlight at 2am while doing so. Embarrassingly, it was my cartoon surprise at the collision that made me drop my phone, ruining a perfectly good AMOLED screen.

Now, while I’d prefer it if our reviews editor didn’t read that, it’d potentially be a lot worse if I did the same thing in New Jersey and a passing police officer caught sight of my antisocial activity. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has proposed a bill that would criminalise use of mobile devices while walking on the state’s public pathways.  

The penalty for flouting these rules to check in on Facebook or send a text would be the same as they currently are for jaywalking: a fine of up to $50 (£35), 15 days in prison or both. Half of the revenue collected from fines would be spent on education about the risks of walking and texting.

“What kind of risks?”, I hear you ask. Lampitt cited a National Safety Council report that revealed walking and using mobile phones at the same time resulted in 11,101 injuries between 2000 and 2011. Eighty per cent of these were the result of a fall, and the most common injuries included dislocations, fractures, sprains, strains and concussions.  

The legislators also noted that American deaths involving pedestrians hit 15% in 2014 – up 4% on 2005.

Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” explained Lampitt. “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.”

All true, but how easy it will be to police is another matter, should it come to pass – right now, the measure hasn’t been given a scheduled hearing.

There are other ways of dealing with text-walking addicts, of course. Antwerp has dedicated texting lanes…

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Images: KT King and frankieleon used under Creative Commons

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