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Texting While Walking Could Be Banned in the Garden State

New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt isn’t trying to be a buzz-killing, technology-hating Luddite by proposing legislation to impose a $50 fine on anyone caught texting or talking on a smartphone without a hands-free device while walking.

She simply wants to save the lives of "petextrians,” which are an endangered species at busy intersections in America’s biggest cities.

The maximum penalty for being a “petextrian,” a person who texts while walking, would be a $50 fine and 15-day jail sentence. It’s not as extreme as it seems. People caught jaywalking are subject to the same $50/15-day punishment.

To this Democrat, it is a very personal issue. A student at the University of Pennsylvania, where Lampitt works, was hit by a bus while he was texting and walking across a street on campus.

Lampitt said her legislation is not intended to take a smartphone and the ability to text at will away from New Jersey residents. It would be OK as long as the petextrian is using a hands-free device to talk or text.

“You should not be distracted; you should be aware of what's going on around you, especially in the street,” she said.

Hers is not a first-of-its-kind recognition of this problem that has been around since early humans first learned that, thanks to their opposable digits, they could pick up things more efficiently than their animal cousins without thumbs.

Videos of people walking into lampposts, doors, and water fountains, falling down stairs and escalators, and missing cubicle chairs are legion and well-documented as 21st-century fails.

But the accidents that seem laughable on YouTube can be incredibly bloody.

A Governors Highway Safety Association study from 2015 blamed texting while walking as one of the reasons for a 15 percent increase in pedestrians getting killed in accidents.

Forty percent of teenagers responding to a Safe Kids Worldwide study said they had been hit or nearly hit by a car, bike or motorcycle while walking. Eighteen percent of them were texting at the time. Twenty percent were talking on a cell phone.

However, the ugly truth is that texting and/or talking on a phone while walking is more than a fact of life in the 21st century. It is a necessity.