We’ve all seen it, somebody weaving along the pavement paying more attention to their mobile phone than their own surroundings. In fact, if we’re honest, most of us have been guilty of it ourselves.
In an increasingly connected world, with smartphones acting not just as communication tools, but also as music and video players, cameras, maps and web browsers, it can be all too easy to become distracted while you’re on the move.
A 2014 poll, conducted by charity Road Safety GB, showed that 30 per cent of respondents said their mobile phone had distracted them from traffic on the roads and one in seven admitted crossing the road without even looking.
More than two-thirds of those aged 18-24 years said they used their mobile phone while walking, compared with three in ten of those aged 55 years and over.
Department of Transport figures showed that in 2013 the number of adult pedestrian deaths rose three per cent year on year but deaths among pedestrians aged under 18 rose by a staggering 35 per cent.
Is it time legislators stepped in to save pedestrians from themselves?
One town in the US has already outlawed texting while walking and a new bill in the State of New Jersey has been lodged to make the legislation state-wide.
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,” Lampitt said.
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 wouldn’t 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.”
What do you think? Should we consider outlawing texting while walking in the UK?