We all know distracted walkers — you know, the folks who can’t look up from their smartphones for long enough to watch where they’re going. Now a New Jersey lawmaker wants these walking hazards to be subject to tickets — and possible jail time.
New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) introduced the legislation this month that would slap a $50 fine and possible jail time on pedestrians who text while crossing the street. She points to the increased prevalence of pedestrian versus car collisions involving people using cell phones while walking, according to nj.com.
Under the bill, anyone found guilty of using a handheld phone while crossing the street would face the same penalty as jaywalkers, with half the fine going to educational programs on the dangers of texting while walking, according to the site. Persistent offenders could face 15 days in jail, according to philly.com.
“I see it every single day,” Lampitt said, according to the site. “Maybe they will think twice about it.”
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.
While many are comfortable with the act of using their mobile devices while walking down the street — 77 percent according to the Pew Research Center — it turns out that the act is not so safe.
Between 2005 and 2010, the number of pedestrians hospitalized for injuries relating to cellphone use grew sixfold, up from 256 in 2005, National Safety Council data showed. Research has shown that texting alters humans’ walking patterns and slows them down.
And injuries weren’t limited to the roads. The Safety Council’s data showed that more than half of injuries happened while people were walking and using their cellphones inside their homes. More than two-third of the injured were women, and slightly more than half were below the age of 40.
More than 1 in 5 of victims were 71 or older.
“Of particular concern were the 170 pedestrian fatalities, which represent nearly 31 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities,” said New Jersey’s Department of Law and Safety. “When compared to the national average of 14 percent, New Jersey is clearly overrepresented and must continue to take action.”
One New Jersey doctor was candid about the potential impact of texting while walking.
“This is an intoxicant,” Dr. John D’Angelo, head of emergency medicine at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, N.J., said while holding a cell phone, according to nj.com. “It’s worse than alcohol or drugs for drivers and pedestrians. They’re less aware (of what’s going on around them).”
But Lampitt’s measure faces hurdles going forward. It’s yet to be posted for a vote and, she told philly.com, and she might have difficulty getting it passed. Similar measures have failed in Arkansas, Nevada and New York.
“If it builds awareness, that’s okay,” she said.