Only in New Jersey does the legislature strive to pass laws that do everything but address actual problems in the Garden State. Today’s #LawWeCanDoWithout comes in the form of a bill sponsored by a relatively obscure member of the New Jersey Legislature, Pamela Lampitt. Her plan is to fine pedestrians caught crossing the street using their cell phone…oh and possibly put them in jail. That’s right, sent to jail for using your cell phone while crossing the street.
Based on a story she told for a local Patch.com article, she knew of a student who was struck and killed by a bus while the student was reportedly on a cell phone.
Wait a minute. A horrible accident where a student gets killed crossing the street and boom, New Jersey will send you to jail for texting and walking?!? Even though some law enforcement officials may say that texting and walking is as dangerous as texting and driving, that doesn’t mean a new law will make people more responsible. And either way, most humans are capable of doing more than one thing at a time. Although distractions come in many forms, take the example of the man killed crossing the street while he was counting tips.
Some of the most recent pedestrian road fatalities in Ocean County include a 68-year-old man who died from his injuries after being struck by a vehicle in Lakewood while crossing Cedarbridge Avenue on Dec. 26, 2015. A 49-year-old woman was killed on Route 9 in Berkeley Township on Dec. 12, 2015 by a pizza delivery man who police said was distracted counting a tip.
Should ‘counting tips’ be an addendum to the law? The sad truth is that overall across New Jersey, pedestrian deaths are way up.
Has Assemblywoman Lampitt connected the dots that this is after they passed a law to protect people in crosswalks? Before we jump into new legislation, how about addressing the issues actually blamed for the rise in fatalities? According to the reports, it’s the road conditions, motorist education and the number of crosswalks that are largely to blame.
“We need to make sure we have enough sidewalks in good condition and there are frequent cross-walks where pedestrians might want to get from one side of the road to the other, especially on our busy arterial roadways,” she said. “We need to make sure those roads are safer for all users.” Chernetz said “New Jersey is a densely populated state so there are going to be more people out and about in cars, there’s going to be more people out on the roadways.” She said pedestrian fatalities are up this year compared to last year and 2013.
“As of Sept. 1, there have been 98 pedestrian fatalities on New Jersey roadways, in 2014 there were 96 and in 2013 there were 84,” she said. “This indicates that there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of engineering our roadways, motorist education, in terms of pedestrian education and in terms of enforcement.”
The challenge with legislating common sense is that it presumes that people don’t know any better and require a law to educate them. When they fail to learn the lesson, government will fine them, you know, for their own good. This law also presumes that people cannot multi-task and stay alive. The worst part is this is yet another law aimed at keeping people safe from their own alleged stupidity without addressing the actual reasons for the rise in deaths. It would seem that based on the rise in pedestrian deaths, the 2010 law was completely ineffective and may have actually contributed to a rise in fatalities.
There is a false sense of security that comes with the passing of new legislation, especially when it’s aimed at common behavior. Anecdotally speaking, I can tell you that I often encounter pedestrians walking into the crosswalk on my hometown streets completely unaware that I’m approaching in my car. Some are texting for sure, but most are just walking and assuming that the law has created some safe barrier around the crosswalk that will miraculously stop my car in it’s tracks. Judging by the increase in deaths, that’s clearly not the case.
So the legislature, at least this one member in particular, looks at the rise in deaths and blames the victim. Now I’m all for educating people on how to properly handle a crosswalk. My wife and I taught our kids to look both ways AND make eye contact with a driver who is slowing down approaching the crosswalk.
Instead of adding more legislation that would be difficult to enforce and potentially have an adverse effect, let’s repeal the 2010 law. It’s created the false sense of security in the street for pedestrians at best. At worst, people are dying. Then let’s go back to parents and teachers telling people to look both ways before crossing the street.