Pedestrians caught using their cell phones without hands-free devices while walking on public sidewalks could be fined up to $50 and even 15 days in jail for persistent offenders, according to a bill proposed on March 14.
“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” assemblywoman and author of the bill Pamela R. Lampitt (D-Camden) said. “An individual crossing the road distracted by their smartphone presents just as much danger to motorists as someone jaywalking and should be held, at minimum, to the same penalty.”
Thirty-two pedestrians in New Jersey have been killed so far in 2016.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths involving the use of cell phones more than tripled between 2004 and 2010—and in 2010, nearly two million pedestrian injuries were related to cell phones, the report said.
“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,” Lampitt told CBS New York.
Other states, such as New York, Illinois, Arkansas, and Nevada have also tried to legislate laws to penalize distracted pedestrians, but failed.
Researchers say distracted walkers are more likely to ignore traffic lights or fail to look both ways before crossing the street, according to Philly.com.
Another study, from Safe Kids Worldwide, a Washington-based nonprofit, found that 40 percent of teens said they had been hit or nearly hit by a car, bike, or motorcycle while walking.
The survey, which consist of 1,040 teens between ages 13 and 18, indicated that 47 percent of those who said they were hit or almost hit were listening to music, 20 percent were talking on the phone, and 18 percent were texting, researchers said.
Though the legislation proposition has not been posted for a vote yet, Lampitt indicates that she’ll be “OK” if it “builds awareness.”