Should Anti-Texting Laws Extend from the Road to the Sidewalk?

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Car accidents are an unfortunately normal occurrence in the United States, with over 10.8 million reported to authorities every year. The causes for this high volume vary from the unavoidable, like mechanical failures and inclement weather, to man-made issues, like drunk driving and texting. The latter causes an estimated 25% of all automobile accidents in the United States, prompting 41 states to outlaw texting while driving outright. However, as accidents caused by texting pedestrians increase, lawmakers and citizens alike are wondering whether or not texting while walking should be made illegal.

Texting while driving makes it 23 times more likely that you'll be involved in a car crash.
Texting while driving makes it 23 times more likely that you’ll be involved in a car crash.

The Case Against Texting while Driving is Clear

While we tend to moan and groan about how ridiculous anti-texting laws are, the fact is the statistics prove what a real problem, a dangerous problem, texting can be when operating a motor vehicle. Texting while driving makes it 23 times more likely that you’ll be involved in a car crash. Drunk driving, on the other hand, makes you 1.4 times to 48 times more likely to be involved in a car accident. Keep in mind, to reach the extreme end of the spectrum you’d need to reach a BAC of 0.15. In other words, texting while driving can put drivers at as much risk of an accident as driving while intoxicated.

Do the Facts Support Banning Texting while Walking?

Clearly, there isn’t and shouldn’t be any question over whether or not texting while driving should be illegal. On the other hand, being told we can’t walk, one of our basic, natural functions, without a cellphone glued to our hands elicits cries over violations of basic freedoms. Shouldn’t we be allowed to walk, talk, and text? Well, if we rely on the facts, as we did with banning texting while driving, probably not.

People Texting Walk Like They’re Drunk

Recent studies confirm that, as with driving, texting while walking fundamentally changes the way we move. Not only do we lose speed, ability to walk in a straight line, and visibility as our eyes lock to our screens, because we have to change the ways we hold our bodies while we walk, our balance is also compromised. Imagine you step off a curb wrong while texting: under normal circumstances, you’d be able to correct your balance and move out of the way of an oncoming car. Texting sacrifices balance, thereby sacrificing your agility, making it much more likely you’ll be hit by that oncoming vehicle.

Neglect Does Cause Accidents

Of course, it’s easy to dismiss this all as theoretical. Texting may make it more likely that you’ll be in an accident as a pedestrian, but that doesn’t mean you will — or does it? In 2010, Accident Analysis and Prevention, a public health journal, found that 1,500 accidents resulting in injuries to pedestrians were likely caused by pedestrians being off-balance and neglectful as their eyes were fixed on their phones, instead of on their immediate surroundings. Critics claim the number is negligible, but as cellphone usage continues to climb in the United States, isn’t it probable pedestrian caused accidents will climb as well?

In the end, laws are made to mitigate risk and improve the well-being of American citizens. That’s why texting while driving laws were instituted in the first place. If texting while walking continues to prove a dangerous habit, shouldn’t we take the same steps for the good of drivers and pedestrians?

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