The perils of “distracted driving,” particularly sending text messages while driving, has been well-reported. Now the New Jersey state legislature may soon consider a new threat—texting while walking.
New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has introduced a bill that would ban pedestrians from walking while texting, and the proposed legislation would bar the use of cell phones while walking altogether unless the devices are hands-free. For those who violate the walking-and-texting rule, Lampitt’s bill allows fines of up to $50 or imprisonment of up to 15 days (the same penalties that the state imposes for jaywalkers).
If the bill passes, New Jersey’s rules for cell phone use would be the same for walkers and drivers. A total of 14 states, including New Jersey, bar hand-held cell phones while driving, and 46 states prohibit texting while driving, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.
No state has yet passed a law “specifically targeting distracted bicyclists or pedestrians,” NCSL’s Douglas Shinkle told The Associated Press, which reported on Lampitt’s bill over the weekend. But four states have considered such bills in recent years, and a similar proposal is currently pending in Hawaii.
“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,” Lampitt told the AP.
The lawmaker cited a National Safety Council report that says “distracted walking incidents” involving cell phones accounted for 11,101 injuries from 2000 to 2011. Nearly 80 percent of the injuries occurred as the result of a fall, while nine percent occurred from the pedestrian striking a motionless object.
Last year, Ars reported on a survey by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, in which 78 percent of respondents agreed that distracted walking was a serious issue—for other people. Just 29 percent admitted they were sometimes or always distracted while walking, while 74 percent perceived other people as engaging in that behavior.
Source: Ars Technica