Walking while texting is dangerous. At least that's what an ABC News implies the law enforcement in Fort Lee, New Jersey would have its citizens believe. “It’s a big distraction. Pedestrians aren’t watching where they are going and they are not aware,” Thomas Ripoli, chief of the Fort Lee Police Department, tells ABC.
After three fatal pedestrian accidents this year, the report says local government has issued a ban on walking while texting and will be handing out jaywalking tickets to any and all offenders, along with a steep $85 fee. The ban is meant to protect the 35,000 citizens in Fort Lee and to discourage the dangerous behavior. "More than 117 tickets have been issued, according to the New Jersey Record," says Alyssa Newcomb of ABC News.
Much like those behind the wheel should do, the idea is that texters should stop walking to type and send a text message or that they should reach their destination before tapping out a message.
Frankly, I would furious if I were a citizen of Fort Lee, New Jersey ... that is, if the story were true.
Earlier this morning, Rosa Golijan of MSNBC's Technolog revealed that the facts were taken out of context and that the law enforcement, in fact, have not banned texting while walking. (Phew!) Golijan says:
"Ripoli, who'd been fielding calls from all over the world, says that discussion of his town's pedestrian safety was somehow taken out of context and that 'things got out of hand.' Folks who are texting while walking in Fort Lee are indeed issued a $54 jaywalking ticket ... but only if they also happen to be jaywalking at the same time."
All the Fort Lee Police Department has done is crack down on texters and raise awareness of the potential dangers of distracted walking. The law enforcement stopped more than 600 texters and handed them pamphlets as part of a safety education campaign, says Golijan. And the 117 jaywalking tickets were for just that: people who were jaywalking. Some of them just so happened to be texting while jaywalking.
So maybe the Fort Lee Police Department didn't ban texting while walking. But should something be done about distracted walking, specifically when it involves cell phone use? It may sound silly, but we have seen more and more incidents of distracted texters getting hurt and putting themselves in serious danger, simply because they were paying more attention to what buttons their fingers were hitting than what they were about to walk into.
In January of last year, our Editor-in-Chief shared a viral video of a girl texting while walking in a mall. With her head down and fingers tapping away at the keyboard, she walks straight into a water fountain ledge, trips and tumbles into the water. A texting man nearly walks into a rogue bear in a city on a live news feed last month. Also last month, Today shared a video of a girl walking while talking (voice not text) on her cell phone who failed to notice the caution blocks and walked into a sink hole danger zone. The sidewalk collapsed under her weight and she fell a daunting 20 feet to the bottom of the hole.
While the facts in Newcomb's story may not have been 100 percent correct, she did, however, share the findings of a study done by Stony Brook University on walking while texting. The two professors who conducted the study found that those who walk and text are 60 percent more likely to veer unknowingly when walking than non-texters. "Texting disrupts your ability much more than does talking," says Eric Lamberg, co-author of the study.
It's hard to deny that cell phone use while doing just about anything else greatly impairs your concentration, reaction time, motor skills, etc. It's dangerous. But while texting and driving puts others in harm's way, texting while walking is less harmful to others, and more dangerous for oneself.
For your own safety, it's best to step aside and stop walking to text. But law enforcement should have no involvement with your cell phone activity while on foot – that is, unless you're jaywalking.
What say you, folks? Should texting while walking be banned? Or, unlike texting while driving, should it be left at the discretion of the careless walker? (After all, distracted walkers running into walls and tripping into fountains do make for a good laugh!)
Image via ABC News