Studies have shown that texting while driving can be deadly, but up until now texting while walking has mostly just proved embarrassing. Still, police in Fort Lee, N.J. recently decided to crack down on jaywalking texters. Why? Because 23 distracted jaywalkers were hit by cars in the first few months of the year, and three were killed. That sobering number hasn't stopped residents of the New Jersey town from complaining about the $85 fine that comes along with a ticket for "careless walking." And while this kind of law — which has long been in place in Fort Lee — typically fails to get enforced, Fort Lee cops aren't bluffing: They've handed out at least 117 tickets since mid-March. (Residents did receive pamphlets warning them to take care while texting before police started handing out fines.) It's law enforcement's job to protect citizens, but is $85 really a fair fine for distracted walking?
Bravo, Fort Lee police: The cops turned to ticketing head-down jaywalkers only after pedestrians roundly ignored warning pamphlets, says Mack Rawden at Pop Blend. I don't blame the police for stepping up their safety campaign, in fact, I applaud them. Stumbling into traffic while obliviously texting is "dangerous, selfish, and beyond frustrating." Would I support a law that banned all phone-talking and texting while walking? Definitely not. "But I'm all for ticketing those who do it stupidly and irresponsibly."
"New Jersey police issuing tickets for careless texting"
The cops are overreacting: Sure, "texters on the move are 60 percent more likely to swerve into someone, but issuing tickets for the behavior is a little extreme," says Kate Knibbs at Mobiledia. After all, people also die while jaywalking with iPods on, or reading a book. "Distracted driving bans are reasonable," but there's a key difference with distracted walking: "You can't kill anyone (besides possibly yourself)." Besides, don't police have better things to do than trying to "micromanage citizen behavior"?
"Why texting while walking bans go too far"
If the number of accidents decrease, more towns will follow: I have no problem with New Jersey police enforcing their existing laws, rather than wasting their energies pushing through a new, unenforced texting-while-walking law, says Bill Ray at The Register. "The smartphone has democratized pedestrian recklessness to the point where we can all engage with our microliths to willfully ignore the dangers surrounding us." My bet is, "if Fort Lee can reduce its accident statistics by fining a few people, then expect the idea to be quickly picked up elsewhere."
"Road deaths spark crackdown on jaywalking texter menace"