Pedestrians who write text messages on their mobile phones while walking in the street are facing a crack down in a US town.
By Mark Hughes, New York
The police chief in Fort Lee, New Jersey, has instructed his officers to issue fines of $85 (£52) to anyone they consider to be engaging in ‘dangerous walking’, citing texting while crossing the road as a prime example of the offence.
Thomas Ripoli decided to act after noticing an increase in car accidents involving pedestrians.
More than 20 people have been hit by cars this year in the town which has a population of about 35,000, some of whom were absorbed in a text message or phone call when the accident occurred.
One person was killed while using a mobile phone while crossing the road, the chief said.
His officers spent two weeks handing out pamphlets warning of the dangers of ‘jaywalking’ – crossing a road at a point other than a designated crossing – before bringing fines into play.
Chief Ripoli said: “It’s a big distraction. It’s not always the driver’s fault. Pedestrians are not always aware; they’re not watching where they are walking.”
Since the start of the campaign in March 117 people have been fined for ‘dangerous walking’ although it is unclear exactly how many were texting when fined.
He said that while texting while walking would not be prohibited completely, people caught crossing a street while texting can expect to be given a ticket.
Other safety suggestions by the police chief include refraining from listening to music on headphones and wearing bright clothing.
The memo reads: “Pedestrians need to resist talking on their cell phones and/or taking their headphones off while crossing a street. These distractions can be catastrophic to the pedestrian who is too distracted to notice if a car is coming in their direction.
“It would also be beneficial to wear some kind of bright coloured clothing. Most coats and jackets are in darker shades during the winter, but adding something that could reflect a headlight would increase the chance for a driver to see you during the night time hours.”
Jaywalking in many US states is prohibited, but is so common that most police turn a blind eye.
Texting while walking has been proven to be distracting. A study at Stony Brook University found that 60 per cent of blindfolded participants, when asked to walk in a straight line, veered off when they texting.