Will Rogers famously wrote, "You can't legislate intelligence and common sense into people." And yet, in the wake of Cathy Cruz Marrero's now-infamous fall into a fountain while walking and texting, lawmakers in several states want to legislate against similar activity.
Proposed laws in New York and Arkansas would restrict people from "using cell phones and music players such as iPods by people running and walking on the street or sidewalk," according to a report from WFMZ and the Associated Press.
In New York, state Sen. Carl Kruger's proposal would ban pedestrians from using any electronic device while using a crosswalk in a city of more than 1 million residents. If it passes, violators would be subject to a $100 fine. Kruger has been seeking to pass this regulation since 2007.
Arkansas' law is a bit tougher, banning pedestrians, runners and cyclists from wearing headphones in both ears any time they are on, or near, a road or highway. Wearing just a single ear bud would be okay under the proposed law.
Similar pending legislation in Oregon would make it against the law for bicyclists to use cell phones or music players, while a slightly broader bill in Virginia would keep cyclists from using any "hand-held communication device," according to a report from the New York Times.
This movement to legislate distracted walking has a purpose: Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise. According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrian deaths rose slightly in the first six months of 2010, the first time that has happened in four years. "One of the reasons we think the trend may be turning negatively is because of distracted pedestrians," a GHSA spokesperson told the Times.
Kruger, meanwhile, told the Times that people used to invoke common sense while crossing the street. "We're taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross. You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity."
The problem isn't new, nor is it restricted to fatalities. A 2008 ABC News report discussed doctors' concerns about the rising number of injuries from distracted texting. "The more people try to multitask and do so many things at once, the more likely we are to see people with injuries from trying to do too much at once," Dr. Mark Melrose told ABC.
Are consumers taking the threat seriously? Only 632 people have signed an online oath to "be part of the solution" at the website TxtResponsibly.org, which was founded in June 2009 but appears to have been dormant since August 2010.
Still, maybe people will listen to the fountain-dipping Marrero, who told WFMZ "Texting and walking — take it from me, it's dangerous."
Related on MNN: Watch the viral video of Marrero falling into a fountain
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