A New Jersey assemblywoman has introduced legislation that would make it illegal to send and receive text messages or to otherwise use a handheld device while in a crosswalk or walking along a public street.
Paula Lampitt, a Democrat from Voorhees and Deputy Speaker from Legislative District 6, proposed the bill in the aftermath of the death of a University of Pennsylvania student who walked in front of a bus while texting. Lampitt says that texting and walking are a dangerous combination, and not just for the person doing the texting. She notes that drivers can be put at great risk when a pedestrian illegally or unintentionally walks in front of them, as the evasive action they may attempt can put them in harm's way.
Lampitt brought additional evidence to her colleagues, citing a study conducted by a professor at William Patterson University that looked at the actions of more than 21,000 people. The researchers looked at the behaviors of people who were injured in crosswalks. Not surprisingly, when people were hurt while crossing against a "Don't Walk" signal, nearly half of them admitted to either wearing headphones or being on a handheld device at the time. But more surprisingly, one-third of those who were struck when they had the right of way had headphones on or were on a device. Lampitt also referenced statistics that showed that the number of injuries and deaths involving pedestrians has tripled over the last decade.
If the proposed law goes into effect, violators could face both fines and potential incarceration.
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