If you walk around New Jersey with your nose buried in your smartphone, you could end up in jail — if a new bill becomes law, that is.
A measure introduced last week in the New Jersey Legislature would outlaw texting while walking. If it passes, the penalty could be a $50 fine, 15 days in jail or both.
“If a person on the road — whether walking or driving — presents a risk to others on the road, there should be a law in place to dissuade and penalize risky behavior,” Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who sponsored the bill, told New York’s CBS2 news station last week.
The issue is personal for Lampitt, who’s also an employee at the University of Pennsylvania. She told the Mahwah Patch that she knew a student there who was struck and killed by a bus while looking at his phone.
New Jersey already has a distracted driving ban, violations of which can cost offenders up to $400 for the first infraction. Expanding the ban to walking would beef up the state’s traffic safety laws even more.
Studies have found that texting can turn a simple stroll into something much more perilous. Accidents related to distracted walking have jumped 35 percent since 2010, according to CBS. What’s more, people texting while crossing the road are twice as likely to be hit by a car than people talking on their phones, according to research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Not all researchers agree that texting while walking is so dangerous. Scientists at Texas A&M found that people toying with their phones while walking through an obstacle course were actually more cautious than undistracted walkers.
“I think the participants recognized that their brain was overloaded and to protect themselves, became more cautious and slowed down to make it safer,” psychologist David Schwebel, a professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told NPR.