A proposed “distracted walking” bill in New Jersey would ban pedestrians from walking and texting simultaneously, with the possibility of a $50 fine or even a short jail sentence.
The measure, which has been proposed by New Jersey Assembly Congresswoman Pamela Lampitt, is to try and reduce pedestrian deaths as a result of distraction from mobile devices.
The law would ban people from walking while texting on any form of electronic communication device unless it is totally hands free.
Those caught could face fines of up to $50, 15 days imprisonment, or both, which is the same penalty as jaywalking.
“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” Lampitt argued.
“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 also added that half of the fine would be used for “safety education about the dangers of walking and texting.”
A report by the National Safety Council shows that distracted walking incidents involving electronic devices accounted for an estimated 11,101 injuries from 2000 through 2011. Deaths of pedestrians have also been increasing; in 2005 11% of all road fatalities involved pedestrians, with the figure rising to 15% in 2014.
Experts claim that distracted walking is a rising problem around the world with people becoming more and more dependent on technology.
Opposition to the bill surrounds the question of to how easily the law can be enforced by authorities who have more serious matters to deal with.
Similar bills have also failed in Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada, and New York.
“Thus far, no states have enacted a law specifically targeting distracted bicyclists or pedestrians,” said Douglas Shinkle, transportation program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. However he added that “a few states continue to introduce legislation every year.”
A hearing on the proposed measure is yet to be confirmed.