'Texting and Walking' Ban Could Force People To Occasionally Look Up From Their Phones

by Ashley Austrew
Originally Published: 

This New Jersey bill make it illegal to text and walk

We’ve all shaken our heads at idiots we spot texting and driving, but apparently our collective cell phone addiction is so out of control, we’re even getting hurt while texting and walking. A New Jersey state assemblywoman recently proposed a law against “distracted walking” in an attempt to curb the number of pedestrians getting injured and even dying because they’re staring at their phones.

The distracted walking measure was introduced by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, and would basically ban walking while using the phone. It would also prohibit pedestrians on public roads from talking on devices unless they’re hands-free. Violators of the law would face fines of up to $50, 15 days in jail, or both — the same penalties that currently exist for jaywalking, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In her proposal, Lampitt cited a National Safety Council report that showed distracted walking incidents involving phones accounted for about 11,101 injuries from 2000 through 2011. The vast majority of people either fell or walked into something because they weren’t paying attention. Experts also note pedestrian deaths have increased from 11 percent of all deaths in 2005 to over 15 percent of all deaths in 2014 — phones could have a lot to do with that.

Anyone who’s ever walked around a big city can tell you distracted walkers are an issue. They stop in the middle of the sidewalk, block entrances and exits to public transportation, slow down the flow of pedestrian traffic, and present real dangers to people on bikes and in cars. Last Christmas, one California man even tragically walked off a cliff because he was reportedly staring down at his phone.

Similar measures to curb distracted walking have failed in Arkansas, Illinois, New York, and Nevada. Most people feel like it’s government overreach, and jail time for texting sounds pretty absurd, but you have to wonder why people in so many states feel the need to propose these laws in the first place. Why can’t we just put down the damn phone for five minutes so we can get from point A to point B without walking into a pole or causing a three car pile-up?

I love my phone as much as anyone, and I will curse anyone who tries to tell me to “put down the phone and live in the moment,” but even I can admit it’s stupid to assume I can safely move about the world while staring down at an electronic device. We wouldn’t try to walk and read a novel, or walk and play a video game. We shouldn’t act like our phones are somehow safer than other distractions just because we love them a lot.

Distracted walking sounds like something out of an Onion article, and it’s almost unbelievable that proposals like the one in New Jersey even need to exist, but here we are. Welcome to 2016, where humans walk into brick walls because John from high school liked their selfie on Instagram. The New Jersey law probably won’t pass, but if the media attention the bill is getting prevents even a few distracted walkers from striding directly into a pole, consider that a success.

H/T Mashable

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