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Will this state ban texting while walking?

Technically Incorrect: A bill is proposed by a New Jersey assemblywoman that would potentially send texting pedestrians to jail.

2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Send him to jail?

National Geographic/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When horses bolt from stables, rampage through the village and trample a few unsuspecting chickens, is there anything we can really do about it?

The minute humanity got ahold of cell phones, it rampaged with them. It needed them all the time, regardless of location.

The living room, the restaurant, the restroom were all places where we whipped out our cell phones in order not to miss the latest excitements on Facebook.

Then we taught ourselves to drive while texting and even walk while texting.

Now, one lone New Jersey Democratic assemblywoman is trying to be Queen Canute to the oncoming tide of texter-walkers.

As Philly.com reports, Pamela R. Lampitt has proposed a bill that would fine texter-walkers $50 and, for persistent offenders, offer 15 days in jail.

I fancy that, soon enough, New Jersey's jails would be full of miscreants with their heads bowed, wondering where on earth their cell phones are.

Essentially, Lampitt wants texter-walkers to be treated as jaywalkers. She told 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 minimum, to the same penalty."

The texter-walker problem has been considerable for quite some time. The Governors Highway Safety Association says that pedestrian deaths involving cell phone use more than tripled between 2004 and 2010. The figure for 2010 was estimated to be 2 million injuries to texter-walkers.

Of course, research -- the occasional home of codifying the obvious -- has shown that texting inhibits a human's ability to talk in a straight line and slows you down.

For all the educational steps that might be taken to discourage texter-walkers -- especially kids -- if you look at the world's streets, it's not having much of an effect.

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.

The truth, of course, is that we've all become increasingly unaware of our surroundings, as we're all too entranced by our phones. Texters have been known to fall into mall fountains, plunge into Lake Michigan and even disappear down sinkholes.

It's entertaining, unless someone gets hurt.

However, the chances of Lampitt's proposal passing seem slight. It's not even up for a vote yet. She herself admitted to Philly.com: "If it builds awareness, that's OK."

Awareness, of course, is what we toss away when we walk and text. And we won't stop, will we?

Personally I find it distracting enough when I see people walking down the street apparently talking to themselves -- and then I see their headphones.

Several times, though, I've walked straight into them. Well, I had an important text to send.