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Image credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot

New Jersey bill would jail you for texting while walking

The proposed law wants you to keep your eyes on the path ahead.

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AP Photo/Ben Margot

There's no question that using your phone while walking can be a problem -- cities have tried everything from dedicated sidewalk lanes to padded lamp posts to prevent collisions with distracted pedestrians. They've even (unsuccessfully) tried to pass laws. However, that isn't stopping New Jersey assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt. She recently introduced a bill that would ban any hands-on use of electronic communication devices while walking on the state's public pathways. Get caught and you'd face the same penalties as jaywalking, which could include up to a $50 fine and 15 days in jail. Lampitt argues that you pose "just as much danger" as a jaywalker, since you may unwittingly smack into a car while you catch up with friends.

The bill isn't coming out of nowhere: Lampitt mentioned a National Safety Council report that documented 11,101 incidents over the space of 10 years, some of which included injuries. However, turning this into an honest-to-goodness law may prove difficult. Police officers frequently have much higher priorities than stopping your Facebook Messenger session, and it may be difficult to enforce the legislation unless you do cause an incident. It might be easier to run ads encouraging people to stay focused than to haul offenders into court.

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