Eyes ahead! NJ town wants to fine you for texting in a crosswalk
New Jersey law already forbids texting while driving — and now one municipality is considering a ban on (some) texting while walking.
Maplewood Committeewoman Nancy Adams has proposed giving tickets to pedestrians who are looking at their cell phones while crossing the street.
She said the idea is to get people “when they’re looking at a mobile device to look up when they’re stepping into a street, whether it’s a crosswalk or not.”
“There’s a whole generation of people who have mobile devices, where they walk and are looking down almost the entire time," she said.
She said everyone needs to be aware that there’s a partnership between drivers and pedestrians.
“We are noticing that people are stepping into the street and not looking both ways, like when I was 5 my mother told me to do — so we just want this as an awareness thing," she said.
A pedestrian in a crosswalk has the right of way, but Adams said she wants pedestrians to "just make sure the cars coming see you and are slowing down."
"You need to look up from that mobile device and make sure you’re safe," she said.
Adams noted the ordinance still must go before Maplewood's public safety committee, which includes the police and fire chiefs, and then be approved by the township committee, to take effect. But if it does pass, there could be a graduated scale of citations adopted for distracted walking.
“Probably it would start anywhere between $15 and 25, and then it would increase if there were multiple fines," she said.
She stressed if the ordinance is adopted, there would be an initial period where police would only issue warnings and not fines, because the goal is safety, not generating revenue.
She also said most pedestrian crashes don’t necessarily involve a vehicle speeding, —it’s more a matter of not paying attention .
“Our job as elected officials is to represent the health and well=being our residents and this goes to that entirely. We just want everybody to be safe," she said.
Michael Darcy, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said he doesn’t know the particular situation in Maplewood, whether people are lingering in the street — but “it’s really not the place to be doing texting. It’s incumbent upon pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings.”
He stressed “any rational person can say there’s a time and a place for texting, and the middle of a crosswalk is not the time or the place.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
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