Texting while walking has been banned in the northern New Jersey town of Ft. Lee since March, but officers are now strictly enforcing the measure after three fatal pedestrian-involved accidents this year. Police Chief Thomas Ripoli states that texting while walking is “a big distraction,” adding that “pedestrians aren’t watching where they are going and they are not aware [of their surroundings].” Ripoli has ordered officers to begin enforcing the law, and has started issuing $85 tickets to offenders. More than 117 tickets have been issued since enforcement of the law picked up in April after a grace period in march, according to the New Jersey Record.
It’s clear that texting or using a smartphone while doing anything is a distraction. From operating a moving vehicle to a moving individual, texting and mobile use can cause injury or death if you fail to pay attention to your surroundings at the right time. Even though we like to think we’re tremendous multi-taskers, our brains simply aren’t wired to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, and we leave ourselves vulnerable every time we attempt to do so. Though these vulnerabilities don’t always involve bodily harm (i.e., blog posts certainly take longer while watching TV, but I’m not likely to get killed – unless my editor has a strict deadline), they still cause us to needlessly be distracted and put ourselves at risk.
Two professors at Stony Brook University in New York conducted a study on walking and texting, finding that texters were a full 60% more likely to veer off-line than non-texting. Gothamist published a story back in March that included 10 videos of what can happen to an individual when texting while walking in an attempt to draw attention to the issue.
Though Ft. Lee is among the first cities to implement a ban on texting while walking, several other cities and states are considering implementing similar measures for both pedestrians and drivers to take action against a growing problem of distracted driving/walking. We’re sure this isn’t the last time we’ll hear of such a ban, and will keep an eye out for measure that attempt to make our roads and sidewalks more safe for us and those around us.
Update: Turns out ABC News incorrectly reported that the bans were for texting while walking. In fact, the tickets given out were for jaywalking, which some people happened to be doing while they were texting. (MSNBC, via PhoneDog)