Although many states have bans on texting while driving, thus far, none has successfully passed a “distracted walking” law – although several states have tried, among them New York, Nevada, and Arkansas, according to Yahoo News.
New Jersey is currently attempting to have texting while walking made illegal. The New Jersey Legislature will consider a bill proposed last week that would fine pedestrians who are looking at smartphones instead of the sidewalk or traffic. Thirty-two pedestrians in New Jersey have been killed so far in 2016, and a new study found that around 10 percent of all pedestrian deaths are related to texting or social media usage.
Democratic Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who proposed the new bill, said that she is concerned by the rising number of injuries and fatalities between pedestrians and cars across the country. Injuries involving walking and using a cellphone have more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, which is a problematic growth rate for just a five year time period.
“If a person on the road — whether walking or driving — presents a risk to others on the road, there should be a law in place to dissuade and penalize risky behavior.”
According to The Huffington Post, New Jersey already has a distracted driving ban, as do many states. Violations in New Jersey can cost offenders up to $400 for the first infraction. Expanding the ban to walking would increase the state’s traffic safety laws even more, but that also means more time spent enforcing it. Walking down any crowded area it’s not unusual to see many people looking at their smartphones instead of where they are walking, and there are many YouTube videos of people walking into buildings, falling into water fountains, etc., because their eyes are glued to their phone. Germany even has a name for these people – “Smombies”, meaning Smart phone plus zombie.
While some of the gaffes that don’t injure anyone are funny, the cost to people financially, physically, and emotionally due to texting while walking is not a laughing matter as incidents continue to rise. For Lampitt, the issue is a personal one. She teaches at a local University where one of her students stepped in front of a bus while looking at his smartphone. He died as a result.
If texting while walking becomes illegal, the individual breaking the law could face up to $50 in first-time offense fines, fifteen days in jail, or both.
Many urban areas have signs that encourage cellphone users to put away their cellphones. “Your Facebook Status Can Wait” is one slogan seen at many crosswalks across the country. While a pedestrian versus a car usually ends up worse for the pedestrian, that is not always the case. Drivers of cars may swerve into oncoming traffic to avoiding missing an oblivious person, injuring multiple people.
The municipality of Fort Lee, New Jersey, has banned walking and texting since 2012. They had 20 pedestrian injuries that year that caused them to take action. In the first week the law was enacted, they issued 120 citations for texting and walking at a price of $85 apiece, according to ABC News.
Two professors at Stony Brook University took on the question if talking on a cell phone impaired people the same as texting and walking. Their initial finding was that 60 percent of people veered off course while walking a straight line and texting. The same was not true of those talking on the phone. The study co-author, Eric Lamburg, says the scientific evidence is clear.
“We want to raise awareness that a real disruption occurs because of texting. Texting disrupts your ability much more than does talking.”
What do you think of a ban on walking and texting? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Photo by M. Spencer Green/AP Images]