Texting while walking could be banned in New Jersey under new rules being proposed by US officials

The number of people dying while walking is swiftly increasing, and thousands of people are being injured while walking with their phone

Lawmakers are hoping to ban people from walking while they were distracted, including while texting.

The bill, which would bring the rules for walking along into line with drivers, and force pedestrians to make sure that they are concentrating on the path in front of them, would fine people who engage in “distracted walking”.

People could even face jail time if they are using their phone while also walking along outside, under a new bill proposed by a state assemblywoman in New Jersey.

Experts say distracted walking is a growing problem around the globe, as people of all ages become more dependent on electronic devices for personal and professional matters.

They also note pedestrian deaths have been rising in recent years. Eleven per cent of all fatalities in 2005 involved pedestrians, but that number rose to 15 per cent in 2014.

The rise in deaths coincides with states introducing bills that target pedestrians and/or bicyclists. For instance, a bill pending in Hawaii would fine someone $250 if he or she crossed the street with an electronic device. In recent years, similar bills have failed in states including Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada and New York.

"Thus far, no states have enacted a law specifically targeting distracted bicyclists or pedestrians," said Douglas Shinkle, transportation program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. But he added that "a few states continue to introduce legislation every year."

The measure recently introduced by New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt would ban walking while texting and bar pedestrians on public roads from using electronic communication devices unless they are hands-free. Violators would face fines of up to $50, 15 days imprisonment or both, which is the same penalty as jaywalking.

Half of the fine would be allocated to safety education about the dangers of walking and texting, Lampitt, a Democrat, said.

Some see the proposal as an unnecessary government overreach, while others say they understand Lampitt's reasoning. But most agree that people need to be made aware of the issue rather than taking for granted that nothing bad will happen to them.

"Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road," Lampitt said. "An individual crossing the road distracted by their smartphone presents just as much danger to motorists as someone jaywalking and should be held, at minimum, to the same penalty."

Lampitt said the measure is needed to dissuade and penalize "risky behavior." She cited a National Safety Council report that shows distracted walking incidents involving cellphones accounted for an estimated 11,101 injuries from 2000 through 2011.

The study found a majority of those injured were female and most were 40 or younger. Talking on the phone was the most prevalent activity at the time of injury, while texting accounted for 12 percent. Nearly 80 percent of the injuries occurred as the result of a fall, while nine percent occurred from the pedestrian striking a motionless object.

The most common injury types included dislocations or fractures, sprains or strains and concussions or contusions.

A hearing on the proposed New Jersey measure has not been scheduled.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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