Texting while walking? Beware. Doing exactly that in New Jersey could soon carry the same penalties as jaywalking: up to a $50 fine and 15 days in jail. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has proposed a bill that would ban pedestrians from using communication devices like cellphones while walking along roads or public sidewalks, unless they are hands-free, reports the Guardian. "Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road," yet "I see it every single day," Lampitt tells the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Maybe they will think twice about it." Critics say officials should instead try educating people about the dangers of distracted walking.
Lampitt fears that alone won't be enough, though she says half the money raised from fines would go toward pedestrian safety education. She cites a National Safety Council report that found 11,101 injuries were caused by distracted walking incidents involving cellphones from 2000 to 2011. A Governors Highway Safety Association report released last year also partly blamed texting and walking for a 15% jump in pedestrian fatalities from 2009 to 2013. Lampitt knows the measure will be a tough sell—similar bills have failed in Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada, and New York—but "if it builds awareness, that's OK," she says. (A sculpture had to be moved because texters kept walking into it.)