New York lawmakers may soon outlaw texting while crossing the street

ALBANY — Lawmakers are pushing to outlaw the practice of texting while crossing the street, citing safety concerns that in some cases have proved deadly.

“Texting is one of the most common forms of communication with friends. It’s the best way to stay in touch with people outside of social media, but the hard part is when people constantly text even when completing their daily errands,” the bill memo sponsored by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Bronx) and Sen. John Liu (D-Queens) says.

“Walking and texting at the same time is most common to do, and it definitely can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. The reason is simple; it takes away your ability to be alert. Over the last few years, smartphones have become a societal norm between teens and adults, statistics of accidents have skyrocketed.”

The legislation would expand to all “portable electronic devices,” meaning cellphones, laptops, pagers and electronic gaming devices.

But emergency messages would be exempt, like correspondence with a personal doctor or hospital, ambulances, and the fire or police department.

Police and firefighters would also be exempt when on the job.

First-time fines range from $25 to $50 bucks, with second and third-time rule breakers facing up to $100 and $250 penalties.

A 2017 Governors Highway Safety Association report found 6,000 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles, and for kids ages five to 19, pedestrian to vehicle injuries is the fifth leading cause of death according to studies.

The National Safety Council added “distracted walking” as a major concern last year, noting “we are losing focus on our surroundings and putting our safety and the safety of others at risk.”

Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) introduced the legislation last year but it died in committee.

But Liu picked up the bill in the Senate, giving the measure momentum.

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