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Texting While Walking Legal in NJ, Jaywalking Is Not

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 16, 2012 6:05 AM

Texting while walking is illegal! Or at least the news media recently implied it was in the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey. But that isn't so, according to Police Chief Thomas Ripoli.

The chief says his officers aren't ticketing residents for texting while walking -- unless they're also jaywalking.

Chief Ripoli and Fort Lee made the news earlier this month when word got out that his officers had issued 117 tickets for texting while walking. But the story actually goes a little bit deeper.

Fort Lee residents have been ignoring crosswalks and red lights in favor of texting and playing with their phones, Chief Ripoli told ABC News. In just the last 3 months, 3 people have been killed and 23 people hurt. Last year, 74 pedestrians were hit. That's a lot in a city of only 35,000.

Realizing that something had to be done, Ripoli's officers began handing out informational pamphlets in March. But when that didn't work, they began ticketing jaywalkers.

Ripoli insists that texting while walking is only illegal if you're jaywalking. But even if you aren't jaywalking, it's still dangerous.

A 2008 study by the Ohio State University concluded that 1,000 pedestrians were injured while walking and talking on their phones, explains ABC News. That's double the year before.

Though you may think otherwise, pedestrians have a legal responsibility to lower this number. If you aren't paying attention and walk in front of a car, it's at least partially your fault. Pedestrians must obey all traffic signs, lights and crosswalks. Texting while walking or playing with an MP3 player distracts from this duties.

So while texting and walking is not illegal, it is ill-advised. Don't do it unless you can tear yourself away from the screen long enough to stop at the curb and look at the light.

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