By Eric Boehm / March 28, 2016
A New Jersey lawmaker has an idea that hits a grand slam of nannyism.
It’s the rare occasion when we can celebrate an idea that is overly paternalistic, completely unnecessary, entirely unenforceable and laughably ridiculous, all at the same time.
DON’T TEXT AND WALK: Be aware of your surroundings, because texting while walking could land you in jail if one New Jersey lawmaker gets her way.
State Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, has proposed a bill to ban texting while walking.
Yes, while walking.
After being mocked by several news outlets in New Jersey, Lampitt apparently pulled the bill from consideration and the state has erased all traces of it from the state legislature’s website.
A one-line description of the bill still appears online, however. It says Lampitt’s legislation would have established a motor vehicle offense of “unlawful use of hand-held wireless telephone by pedestrians.”
Can you imagine receiving a traffic ticket for walking, on a sidewalk, with a cell phone in hand? That’s pretty much what the bill would have done. According to NJ.com, which first covered the proposal, the penalty for texting while walking would have been $50 and offenders could have been required to attend classes on highway safety.
Get caught more than once and you could end up in jail.
“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” Lampitt said in a statement, according to NJ.com.
Lampitt was apparently not messing around with this idea. According to Philly.com, her proposal called for repeat offenders to be sent to jail for 15 days – where, one would assume, they would not be texting, interfering with traffic or walking very far.
Image via Ballotpedia
LAMPITT: State Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt’s bill is a rare occasion to celebrate a Nanny State grand slam. It’s an idea that is overly paternalistic, completely unnecessary, entirely unenforceable and laughably ridiculous, all at the same time.
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Being distracted by texting is indeed a measurable problem, and one that seems to be increasing as more people spend more time with their noses buried in their cell phone screens. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that there were 2 million injuries to texter-walkers during 2010, a three-fold increase since 2004.
But is throwing people in jail the right response?
Lampitt’s proposal will likely not become law in New Jersey – at least not this year – but she’s actually behind the times in some parts of the state.
In Fort Lee, New Jersey, a town already famous for politically manufactured traffic problems, it’s already illegal to text while walking around. Getting caught cellphone-in-hand will leave you with an $85 fine and ticket for jaywalking.
Thomas Ripoli, chief of the Fort Lee Police Department, told ABC News that the borough instituted the new fines in 2012 after having three fatal accidents involving pedestrians in the span of one year.
Other states might soon be following in New Jersey’s finger and footprints.
Texting while driving bans have been implemented in 46 states plus the District of Columbia. Fourteen states (including New Jersey) plus D.C. have bans on any and all cell-phone use by drivers.
Busy-body lawmakers in those states are now eyeing pedestrians. Variations on the “no texting while walking” bill have been introduced in Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada and New York, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. None of them have been passed into law.
Fines and jail time are completely inappropriate punishments for this type of activity, occasionally dangerous though it may be. Instead, hey, maybe just be aware of your surroundings and wait until you’re someplace safe to continue snapchatting with your friends.
And if any state is going to pass a law punishing people for texting while walking, we can only hope they make it a little bit of fun.
Instead of a traffic ticket and a fine, how about something that involves bears?