New Revenue Shakedown: Texting While Walking

Texting while walking is now an offense in Fort Lee, NJ.

Pedestrians can be injured and even killed if they don’t pay attention to where they are going. That’s why it isn’t too common to hear people cry for a law requiring pedestrians to pay attention to where they are going. If a person isn’t motivated enough to avoid injury or death, then why should a law with a penalty make any difference?

But when there are opportunities to collect revenue, suddenly it makes sense to prohibit texting while walking.

Look at how this CBS News story advocates the new regime and gives no hint to readers that there is anything negative about fining walkers.

First the headline says that texting while walking is banned, but the first line says it is texting while jaywalking that will be ticketed. Jay walking is already prohibited (though it probably shouldn’t be) so why mention texting?

Now Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli is holding pedestrians accountable by asking them to be more aware.

“Asking them”? That’s the language you use for a respectful request. But the previous sentence said that people could be given a ticket.

There have been 23 pedestrian accidents since January, Fort Lee police chief told CBS New York. While most accidents were minor, three fatalities were reported.

There is nothing said about any of these pedestrians texting while walking. We are not even told that they were at fault. Nor are we told whether or not pedestrian accidents are increasing which might (might!) indicate that an increasing use of smart phones is leading to an increasing number of accidents.

There have been some outrageous viral videos of people distracted while texting. Recently, a Los Angeles man almost ran into a bear while texting. Another video shows a woman in a mall who fell into a water fountain because she was distracted from texting.

Los Angeles is on the other side of the country. What does that have to do with a town in New Jersey? There are millions of mobile phone owners in the United States. The fact that a couple of stories about distracted pedestrians has come to light does not prove there is any kind of national emergency going on that requires the police to ticket people for texting while walking.

The story ends with an update/correction, saying that not only will texting while walking get you a ticket, but so will other kinds of “dangerous walking.” What does that mean?

It means the city is working on new sources of revenue.