Should Texting And Walking Be Banned?

I commute to, and work in, New York City.

It’s not the densest city in the world, but more than eight million people sure make it feel like that way.

And when that many pedestrians navigate crowded streets, train stations, subways, sidewalks, retail stores, restaurants, elevators, parks and paths, it’s important that they pay attention.

Paying attention is foremost a safety concern. A distracted pedestrian is a risk in the presence of aggressive, raging and sleep-deprived drivers and motorcycling messengers -- and they are on every block. Distracted pedestrians also are a risk in the presence of construction-site scaffolding, open sidewalk basement doors, water fountains and train platform edges.

I’m not sure there are any nationwide or global studies on the dangers of texting while walking, but regional and anecdotal evidence is mounting. The volume of news reports and legal posturing is growing as well, as reflected, for example, in a trend story this week by the AP’s transportation reporter, Joan Lowy.

I’m highly against overbearing and frivolous legislation. But if the safety of innocent victims is at stake, and it involves countering distracting and addictive behaviors like texting, I’m in support of legal intervention. I’ve seen little kids get hit by texting walkers, and babies in strollers get pushed into unsafe intersections by texting moms and babysitters. It’s a real problem.

Yet texting while walking is more than just a safety concern. It can be highly annoying for fellow pedestrians. These days, it seems like half the pedestrians on any sidewalk have their heads down on their screens instead of watching where they’re going. If you’re not focused on texting, you have to allocate your focus to monitoring those who are.

Some busy passageways -- like Grand Central Station at 7:30 a.m .on a weekday -- require you to walk with your arms extended, both to warn texting walkers and to physically deflect them. The worst are cigarette smokers who text while walking.

Finally, when extraterrestrial life forms observe us from outer space, you’ve got to wonder what they think about our species. Is it normal for half of us to walk with our heads angled down, gazing into ittle glowing screens? Is that evolution?

With smartphone adoption continuing to ubiquity, you can’t help but question texting’s impact to pedestrian safety and quality of life. The problem is getting worse, not better.

So until behavior changes or smartphone technologies solve the challenge for us, I’m in support of legislation to ban texting while walking.

Mayor Bloomberg: After you win your war on supersized sugary drinks, would you please shift your focus to texting while walking?



4 comments about "Should Texting And Walking Be Banned?".
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  1. Scott Schafebook from Twelvefold, July 31, 2012 at 1:22 p.m.

    Seems like Darwin and survival of the fittest at work here; weeding out the weak links in society. If you need legislation to tell you not to totally immerse yourself in your mobile device with all that going on around you - you probably deserve to get hit by a bike messenger.

  2. Ted Rubin from The Rubin Organization / Return on Relationship, July 31, 2012 at 3:51 p.m.

    Love this post Max. Have been meaning to/joking about writing a post about walking city streets in general... i.e. no stopping short or random cuts in various directions, etc. Thanks for sharing :-)

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 31, 2012 at 6:03 p.m.

    It will be more interesting when insurance companies get involved - a lawyer's delight. Insurance does not cover accidents when perpetrator is texting while driving, walking, pool floating.....Back in the day it was hatpins for the ladies.

  4. Brian LoCicero from Kantar, August 1, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.

    Do we have to continue to legislate ourselves out of common sense? It seems that personal responsibility is just an option now.

    Right or Left, whatever your political leanings, can we all agree that we need LESS legislation around common sense items?

    Yep, it's a slippery slope but now it's almost at a 85 degrees.

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