New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt wants to ban walking while texting, and if theDemocrat’s proposed bill passes, violators would be facing 15 days imprisonment, fines of up to $15, or both. Even though the penalty is the same as for jaywalking and the fines would be allocated for safety education, many wonder whether Democrat Lampitt isn’t reaching too far.
New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt introduced the walking while texting bill this past week. Lampitt serves in the New Jersey General Assembly, where she represents the 6th legislative district. As The Guardian reports on March 26, the Democrat’s bill has not been posted for a vote so far and she acknowledges that she might have a hard time to get it passed.
Similar walking while texting bills have failed to become laws in New York State, Nevada, and Arkansas. However, there is a growing interest, especially among Democrats, to ban the use of electronic devices on public sidewalks and along roadways – unless they are being used hands-free.
According to Douglas Shinkle, the transportation program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, “thus far, no states have enacted a law specifically targeting distracted bicyclists or pedestrians.” Nevertheless, “a few states continue to introduce legislation every year.”
New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt’s motive for the walking while texting law is motivated by statistics that show an increase in pedestrian fatalities due to texting while walking. Since 2009, pedestrian fatalities have increased by 15 percent, to 4,735, in 2013,” a 2015 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association states. Nearly 2 million pedestrian injuries were related to cellphone use while walking.
Researchers have found that walkers using electronic devices are more likely to ignore traffic lights or look both ways before crossing a street. The researchers’ survey showed that out of 1,000 children ages 13 to 18, 47 percent said that they were hit or almost hit while listening to music. About 20 percent were nearly in an accident while talking on the phone, and 18 percent were texting.
In regard to the New Jersey bill banning walking while texting, Democrat Lampitt commented that “distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road. 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.”