March 28, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) A new proposed law in New Jersey would make texting while walking an offense punishable by up to 15 days in jail or a $50 fine.
New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt introduced the bill last week, arguing it was intended to keep people safe. “Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” she said. “As people’s behaviors change so must our policy.” She cited recent data showing increases in the number of pedestrians using cell phones who were injured by automobiles.
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The Washington Post summarized some of these growing concerns:
“New Jersey had the 10th highest pedestrian fatality rate nationwide in 2014 — at 1.88 per 100,000 — according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. New Mexico, Florida and Delaware had the highest rates. New Jersey has had 33 pedestrian deaths in 2016, and had 170 in all of 2015.
“Nationwide, there were as many as 2 million pedestrian injuries related to cell phone use in 2010, and pedestrian deaths tripled between 2004 and 2010, according to the GHSA.”
“This is an intoxicant,” Dr. John D’Angelo, head of emergency medicine at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, N.J., told nj.com. “It’s worse than alcohol or drugs for drivers and pedestrians. They’re less aware (of what’s going on around them).” Indeed, few deny the impairment often caused by using cell phones while trying to perform other activities. At least one study has shown increased impairment, specifically, while texting and walking, though that same study found users became more cautious as a result.
Lampitt’s bill would impose the same penalty that comes with jaywalking according to nj.com. “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,” she argued.
Though Lampitt’s legislation would allocate 50 percent of revenues toward education some feel the proposal goes too far:
Mustafa Gatollari, a New Jersey resident, highlighted the possibility that, like many rules meant to keep people safe, the proposed law could simply result in inflated revenue for the state:
“And I get that the law is meant to protect people or whatever, but I can just imagine some a**hole cop picking on a group of teens standing outside of a strip mall texting their friends, and slapping them all with $50 tickets so they can make their quotas,” he wrote.
Similarly unpopular bills have largely been defeated. CNET explained:
“New York, Illinois, Arkansas and Nevada have also seen legislators try (and fail) to enact laws against texting and walking. In Hawaii, a bill has been proposed that would fine pedestrians $250 for crossing the street while using an electronic device. Fort Lee, New Jersey managed to occasionally embrace texting and walking under its ‘dangerous walking’ laws.”
In New Jersey, Lampitt’s bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote. She acknowledged the bill’s small chance of passage, saying, “If it builds awareness, that’s OK.”
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