Should it be illegal to text while walking?

IT is illegal to do it behind the wheel and now law enforcement agencies and safety campaigners are divided over plans to outlaw the use of mobile phones by pedestrians.

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Hundreds of people each year suffer injuries as a result of distractions caused by texting and gaming while walking on footpaths and one American town is introducing legislation to make it a criminal offence.

However Road Safety GB is urging caution because of the lack of evidence that a ban could lead to a positive behaviour change.

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In New Jersey, a bill has been lodged to adopt legislation banning texting while walking across the state. The bill has been put forwarded by Pamela Lampitt and, if passed, anyone caught breaking the law would be fined up to $50 or face 15 days’ imprisonment.

“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” said Lampitt.

Lampitt referenced a US National Safety Council report which estimated that more than 1,000 injuries a year in the US result from pedestrians being distracted by their phones.

But, while keen to highlight the importance of pedestrian awareness, Road Safety GB are advocate following the example of Fort Lee, New Jersey, and outlawing texting while walking.

“Road Safety GB fully support educational and media initiatives to highlight the dangers of using a mobile phone whilst walking, however, the concept of fining pedestrians for this behaviour is, if you will pardon the pun, a step too far,” said Iain Temperton, director of communications at the charity.

“Apart from the obvious difficulties of enforcing such legislation, research shows that simply levying a fine against a road user does not result in behaviour change, whereas education does. We would much rather give people good information and allow them to make informed decisions.”