Police ban ‘distracted walkers’ from texting on the go

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Brew

Gum chewers are blowing bubbles of relief ever since New Jersey police declared they are no longer the most dangerous walkers on the beat.

As MYFOXNY reports, pedestrians who text while they amble down the sidewalks of Fort Lee, N.J. can now get issued a citation for dangerous walking.

"It's a big distraction," Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli told the news network. "Pedestrians aren't watching where they're walking, they're not aware."

Police argue that people who are plugged into their phones, iPods or other electronic devices are more likely to ignore traffic signals or wander straight into oncoming traffic.

In fact, a pair of professors at Stony Brook University found that texting while walking increases those odds by 60 per cent.

"Performing a dual-task, such as talking or texting with a cell phone while walking, may interfere with working memory and result in walking errors," wrote the study's authors in their abstract.

Since declaring their intentions through brochures back in March, Fort Lee police have been on the lookout for distracted walkers. Last month alone, they handed out 117 $85 jaywalking citations.

Though a number of townsfolk have grumbled about the crackdown, police said they'd like to put an end to unnecessary traffic accidents. This year, twenty borough residents have been hit by cars, three of whom were killed as a result.

The new bylaw follows previous crackdowns on cell phone use and texting while driving.

In 2005, Connecticut became the first state to ban drivers from using handheld cell phones, followed by New Jersey and New York.

Though the bylaws vary from state to state, many have since put some restriction on the practice.

Up north and across the border, CBC notes that Newfoundland and Labrador was ahead of the curve when, in 2003, it became the first province to nix the handheld-device-while-driving routine.

Quebec, Nova Scotia, B.C. and Ontario introduced similar legislation in 2009.

While the new laws have led to nanny state accusations, statistics show that 25 per cent of traffic accidents in the U.S. are caused by distracted drivers.

Distracted walkers don't cause as many calamities, so it will be interesting to see whether this bylaw eventually makes it up to Canada.

But as anyone who's ever been stuck behind a texter that slows down to a pedestrian crawl already knows, it can't hurt to encourage these busy folks to step off to the side and finish their highly important business in one place.