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New Jersey Considering Fines for Distracted Pedestrians

Having launched a pedestrian safety campaign focused on education, legislators may go a step further to tackle another 'E'—enforcement. But rather than drivers, pedestrians looking down at their smart phones will be the targets.
March 25, 2016, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The proposed legislation was introduced the same month that a safety program* was expanded to include warnings against distracted driving and walking, as safety officials and lawmakers try to keep up with technology that increasing demands our attention," writes Larry Higgs, commuting reporter for NJ Advance Media for

The bill would fine pedestrians $50, if they are found guilty of using a handheld phone or texting while crossing the street. The legislation was proposed by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, who cited a national increase in collisions between cars and pedestrians who were using phones while walking, as the reason for the bill.

Pedestrian safety is a topic near and dear to the heart of Planetizen. No other mode of transportation is so critical to the health and vibrancy of cities. Indeed, as the March report [PDF] of the Governors Highway Safety Association points out (posted here), pedestrian deaths are up while overall traffic deaths are down, though the National Safety Council indicates that all traffic deaths increased last year—in fact, the largest increase since such data was recorded.

The National Safety Council's Injury Facts®, which tracks data around the leading causes of unintentional injuries and deaths, contained information on "distracted walking" (posted here) last fall:

"Some data suggests that at any given moment on the streets of America, 60 percent of pedestrians are distracted while walking, meaning either on the phone or doing something on their phone,” said Alan S. Hilibrand of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “It’s a bit of a startling number.

AAOS published a survey last December with more data on the "Perils of Walking While Under the Influence of Your Phone."

Lampitt's "bill carries the same penalty as jaywalking and half the fine would be allocated to safety education about the dangers of walking and texting," adds Higgs.

[North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority] NJTPA officials secured Federal Highway Administration money for the Street Smart program. The FHWA identified New Jersey as a state requiring added focus because of pedestrian injuries and fatalities which are almost double the national average, said Mary K. Murphy, NJTPA executive director.

"We're working toward zero deaths," Murphy said

Oddly, the "year-to-date", meaning from January 1 to March 24 traffic data [PDF], shows a decline in pedestrian fatalities compared to the last three years. Are pedestrians getting smarter?

*"Street Smart NJ is a public education campaign coordinated by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority – aims to raise awareness of pedestrian and motorist laws and change the behaviors that lead to pedestrian and cyclist crashes and fatalities," states the campaign's website. "Obeying traffic laws and street signs is vital to everyone’s health and safety."

Clearly NJTPA and the legislature have covered the first two "E's" of traffic safety, Education and Enforcement. As for the "third E," Engineering, I saw endorsements of NJDOT's Safe Routes to School program and Complete Streets Policy [PDF], but not an aggressive campaign to implement them.

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

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Published on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in
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