By Aldo Panessidi
The buzz is everywhere about Fort Lee, the town in New Jersey that banned texting while walking. The Associated Press originally reported the story as a law that would impose a $54 fine on someone who was texting while walking.
This follows an incident in China that made international headlines... when a woman texting on her phone while walking fell through an open manhole and had to be rescued. It turned out both the woman and cell phone were unscathed.
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As the Atlantic Wire corrected the story, “the official fineable offense is in Fort Lee, N.J., is jaywalking, which can include but is not limited to texting while walking. While it is true that you can get a ticket while you are texting and walking, you can only get fined if the texting turns you into a distracted jaywalker who creates a dangerous traffic situation.”
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The town passed the law because more than 20 pedestrians have been hit while jaywalking in the town this past year, including three people who were killed. “It’s a big distraction. Pedestrians aren’t watching where they are going and they are not aware,” said Thomas Ripoli, chief of the Fort Lee Police Department. Police handed out pamphlets during a short grace period in March before they began aggressively going after “dangerous walkers.” The New Jersey Record reported that more than 117 tickets have been issued since then.
In a study on walking and texting conducted by two professors at Stony Brook University in New York, they found texters are 60 percent more likely to veer off their paths than non-texters. “We want to raise awareness that a real disruption occurs because of texting,” Eric Lamberg, co-author of the study, told Long Island Business News. “Texting disrupts your ability much more than does talking.”
New York State Senator Carl Kruger wants a similar ban to in New York. It would also prohibit talking on the phone or using iPods while walking or running.