Since a recent spike in pedestrian fatalities was linked to ‘distracted walking,’ a New Jersey lawmaker thinks that outlawing texting or the use of an electronic device while walking would fix the growing problem.
According to assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt’s proposal, any New Jersey resident caught texting or using a phone without hands-free while walking would risk 15 days jail time or a fine of up to $50.
If the measure becomes law, distracted walking will have the same penalty as jaywalking across the state.
Countless reports show that distracted walking has become a serious problem, as more and more users become dependent on their electronic communications devices.
Additionally, there was a spike in pedestrian deaths between 2005 and 2014. During that period, fatalities involving pedestrians rose by 4 percent. As of 2014, 15 percent of the nation’s fatalities were incidents involving pedestrians.
Other states are now trying to curb these fatalities. For example, Hawaii plans to fine $250 any pedestrians that cross the street while being distracted by a phone. Other states including New York, Illinois, and Arkansas have pondered similar bills, but without success.
As a result, no state was able to pass a law that directly targets distracted pedestrians. Nevertheless, lawmakers are proposing such bills almost every year. New Jersey wants to outlaw distracted walking and use the fines for education programs on the risks of texting while walking. Lampitt proposed that half of money be allocated to such programs.
Critics of the proposal said that the measure would unnecessarily expand government’s powers. Other people hailed the proposal. Yet, both sides agreed that people need to become aware of the risks of distracted walking.
Lampitt added that distracted pedestrians and drivers are a growing problem and a danger to themselves and people around them. She argued that a pedestrian crossing the street while staring down at their smartphone represents as much danger as a jaywalker so he or she should face the same penalty.
Other critics are concerned that the new measure could not be properly enforced by law enforcement agencies, as officers are often busy with more important matters. So, they believe that the state should focus instead on educating pedestrians rather than policing them.
According to recent figures released by the National Safety Council, distracted walking related to electronic communications devices resulted in more than 11,000 injuries between 2000 and 2011. About 80 injuries were caused by falls while 9 percent were caused by collisions with motionless objects.
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