Texting: Pedestrian Safety Act

A recent bill was introduced to criminalize distracted walking, including texting while walking.

Should texting while walking be a crime?

Photo courtesy of KellyMarie Braun.

A Care2 petition was recently created to urge legislators to not pass a bill that would jail for texting while walking on the state’s roadways. Created by Chris Wolverton, the petition has currently received 24,523 signatures and only needs a few hundred more to reach its 25,000 signature goal. The petition, which targets New Jersey assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt who introduced this bill that would ban texting while walking in a roadway, is doing all it can in order to make sure that texting while walking is decriminalized.

The bill, titled “Pedestrian Safety Act,” was recently introduced by Lampitt and states that “the use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device by a pedestrian on a public roadway shall be unlawful except when the telephone is a hands-free wireless telephone or the electronic communication device is used hands free.” The penalty? A hefty $50 fine and 15 days in jail.

The bill also states that the only time that a pedestrian is excused for using their electronic device is if they fear for their safety or life, or if they feel a criminal act is to be perpetuated upon them. Although statistics show that use of these devices has caused distracted walking, sometimes leading to fatal and injurious traffic accidents, supporters of the Care2 petition are strongly against the criminalization and feel that jail time is not the answer.

“Does [Pamela Lampitt] have any idea of what it costs the taxpayers when a person is in jail?” said Gary Cunnane, supporter of the Care2 petition. “Is it worth giving that person a record for life? Jail is a place for criminals. What is next?”

The bill, if passed, clearly states that pedestrians will be banned from using their hand-held devices on public roadways and does not criminalize texting while walking on a public sidewalk. Wolverton, who feels that a fine and jail time is extreme, offers that a public awareness campaign on the dangers of distracted walking would be a better use of state resources. He also feels that this bill will give police the opportunity to discriminate.

While a mere 25,000 people support this petition to decriminalize texting while walking, some are in favor of the bill. “I do think texters should be held accountable if they cause an accident,” said New Jersey resident, Susanne Messler. “Just as if they were behind the wheel, I would not want my life on the line if a texter walks out in front of my car because they are preoccupied.”

If you are interesting in learning more about the bill, visit njleg.state.nj.us/2016/Bills/A4000/3503_I1.PDF, and if you are an advocate for this petition, visit thepetitionsite.com/607/991/450/***/ to add your signature to the list of supporters for the petition.

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