THE TOWN of Fort Lee, N.J., has outlawed texting while jaywalking, issuing scores of $54 tickets to pedestrians who send or read messages while drifting out of crosswalks. Tiny Rexburg, Idaho, bans texting while crossing the street. Last year the Utah Transit Authority created a $50 civil fine for distracted walking across its transit tracks. Even in Nevada, where “Anything Goes” should be the official state song, legislators filed a bill this year making it a crime to read, write, or send data while crossing a public way.
Before you scoff at this new low in nanny state-ism, consider the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report that 1,152 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms after being injured while using a cellphone or some other electronic device in 2010 — and the number had doubled since the year before. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that pedestrian fatalities rose by 4.2 percent in 2010 over the previous year, and injuries were up 19 percent, even though overall traffic deaths declined.