New Jersey Bill Would Ban Texting and Walking

©. Alan Levine on Flickr

It may soon be illegal to text and walk at the same time on public sidewalks and public roads in New Jersey. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who sponsored the bill, says

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.

They could be fined up to $ 50 or fifteen days in jail. Now I would have thought that texting and walking in an intersection presents a risk only to the person doing it, but that's evidently not true. Lampitt is quoted in 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 a minimum, to the same penalty.

Shocking! Think of the danger to motorists if a pedestrian is splattered all over their SUV! The paintwork! The windshield! But wait- other than denting the grille on the Escalade, how does it really hurt the motorist?

A pedestrian distracted by their device and unaware of oncoming traffic may cause unsuspecting drivers to brake suddenly or swerve out of the way, creating a potentially deadly situation.

That's even more shocking! By being on their phone, the pedestrian is not aware of the unsuspecting driver and doesn't jump out of the way!

It doesn't stop with the Assemblywoman. The County Prosecutor's office told CBS News:

Pay attention to what you’re doing at that moment. Don’t split your time with your phone, with conversations, with anything else.

So you are not even supposed to have a conversation while walking. Eyes straight ahead. No talking. And this is not just about using the phone while crossing the street, this is about walking on the sidewalk too, where texting evidently is also dangerous. Why? Another New Jersey website notes:

A 2012 SUNY Stony Brook study found participants who were texting while walking "veered off course demonstrating a 61 percent increase in lateral deviation," suggesting cell phone use and texting creates significant difficulty in maintaining your course.

We have discussed the criminalization of walking before, how the culture of fear is moving onto the sidewalk, how pedestrians are such an impediment, but never has it been so blatant. Really, in a world where we should be getting people our of their cars, instead we are making it almost illegal to walk.

Not only has the pedestrian been forced out of the road and given a tiny strip of sidewalk, but now they have to walk straight, eyes up, alert and ready to jump out of the way of unsuspecting drivers.