Attention, texting addicts: New Jersey wants to ban “distracted walking”
We’ve all done it: we needed to get somewhere, but we also just got a super-important text that we needed to answer post-haste, so we just attempted both at the same time. However, a new bill proposed in New Jersey may make it illegal to text and walk at the same time in the state.
Other states have tried and failed to pass bills prohibiting texting and walking. However, NJ hopes to be the first to pass a new “distracted walking” measure that would forbid pedestrians from texting their bae with a non-hands-free device while walking down the street, according to ABC News.
If caught in the act, you could be charged $50, spend 15 days in jail, or both. Half of the fine would be used to educate about the dangers of walking and texting at the same time, according to NJ assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who proposed the bill.
But why try to ban something that all of us do, frankly, all the time? “Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” Lampitt told ABC News. “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.”
The thought of someone getting in trouble with the law for sending the eggplant emoji to her BFF while walking may seem like a bit much. Yet legislators think it could save lives. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, pedestrian fatalities declined significantly between the mid-1970s and early 2000s, only to increase by 15% since 2009 — and it has been suggested that cell phone usage may be the reason. In 2013, the number of deaths was at 4,735 — one every two hours that year, which experts note could be related to the increase of smartphone prevalence. On top of that, according to research from University of Alabama at Birmingham, people who text while crossing the street are twice as likely to be hit by a car than those who are talking on the phone. Apparently, distracted walkers actually take longer to cross the street and are more likely to neglect pedestrian safety like traffic lights and looking both ways. Yeesh.
Still, not everyone thinks texting and walking is all that dangerous. A fascinating study conducted by scientists at Texas A&M found that people using their phones while walking through an obstacle course were actually a lot more careful and cautious than those who were not. “I think the participants recognized that their brain was overloaded and to protect themselves, became more cautious and slowed down to make it safer,” psychologist David Schwebel, a professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told NPR.
If the law passed in NJ, we wonder whether cops are really going to be handing out tickets for this. As ABC News mentioned, cops often have more grave matters on their hands. Still, Lampitt believes that the bill is essential to save lives. “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,” she told CBS New York.
Do you think “distracted walking” should be outlawed, or are there better things to be focusing on?