Culture

Don't Walk and Text: Law Targets Cellphone-using Pedestrians in New Jersey

Man walking with iPhone
A man walks while using his iPhone in New York, May 1, 2012. "Distracted walking could soon become illegal in New Jersey. Andrew Burton / Reuters

A new law against “distracted walking” that could see cellphone-using pedestrians fined and even jailed is under consideration in New Jersey.

Experts suggest that an increasingly high number of deaths are caused by pedestrians taking little notice of where they’re going, usually because they’re texting. A National Safety Council report reveals that distracted walking incidents involving mobile phones accounted for approximately 11,101 injuries in the U.S. between 2000 and 2011.

New Jersey assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has proposed a ban on walking while texting and on pedestrians using all forms of electronic communication devices on public roads unless they are hands-free. The same penalty as jaywalking would apply—fines of up to $50, 15 days imprisonment, or both. Half of the fine would be donated to educating pedestrians on the dangers of walking while texting.

Similar legislation proposed in Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada and New York has been rejected by lawmakers.

Critics have argued that Lampitt’s proposed measures are an example of futile government intervention; others are supportive of the potential law.

“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” Lampitt says. “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 Independent reports.

The proposed New Jersey legislation has not yet been given a scheduled hearing.