Texting while walking will cost you, but haven’t we always been distracted?

At SmartSign, we often discuss the dangers of our dependence on smartphones and the benefits of digital detox. But when it comes to texting while walking, those dangers will cost you more than a sense of human connection.

In Fort Lee, New Jersey, texting while jaywalking now carries a $54 fine, and it’s not the only place to enact measures against the dangerous habit. Legislators in Nevada filed a bill this year to make it a crime to read, write or send data while crossing a public way. Does this seem too harsh?

A naturally speedy walker, I can feel myself slowing down as I read a text, decide that I have to check my email  immediately, or even when consulting a map to make sure that I am in fact speedily walking in the right direction. This doesn’t mean I don’t find it infuriating when the person walking in front of me does the same.

The nuisance of using a phone while walking is apparent to everyone, and yet, most of us do it anyway. We know it’s annoying, but what we don’t think about as much is how risky distracted jaywalking can be. The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System found that the number of pedestrians who were treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained while walking and using a cellphone increased steadily, from 599 in 2004 to 1,506 in 2010.

From the numbers, it would seem that the injuries increased along with cellphone popularity—and dependency. However, it’s important to note that drivers have been warned against distracted pedestrians long before the invention of the smart phone.

This poster from 1950 isn’t that different from signs you’ll see today. Sure, the poster seems to be more concerned with the safety of the driver, but put a cell phone in that careless walker’s hand and switch up the wording a bit, and you’ll find the sentiment still rings true.

Distracted pedestrians have been a danger to drivers and themselves for as long as there have been drivers—and pedestrians for that matter. So maybe we should stop blaming our cellphones, and blame our distractible (or careless) natures instead.

Whether you run the risk of incurring a fine or not, pay attention when crossing the street. Cellphones are undeniably an added distraction so, yes, stop looking at your phone, but you should also stop looking at anything that distracts you from your purpose at a crosswalk. This includes the newspaper, your watch, or even the person behind you.

Don’t forget to look at the signs, though. Reading signs while crossing the street can help protect pedestrians by informing them of the kinds of dangers or conditions that they should expect.

Do you think cellphones make pedestrians more dangerous now than ever before? Sound off in the comments.