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Road deaths spark crackdown on jaywalking texter menace

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Vid Cops in Fort Lee have fined 117 pedestrians in a fortnight for jaywalking while engrossed in their smartphone screens - after three people died by wandering into traffic.

So far this year officers have warned 575 citizens in the New Jersey borough that they risked, apart from death, an $85 (£52) ticket for strolling into traffic while fiddling with their mobiles. But such advice wasn't being heeded, so two weeks ago the police started handing out fines instead, as local rag NorthJersey.com reports.

“Even kids,” the paper quotes the unapologetic chief of police. “We just hope their parents would make them pay the fine. After all, this is for the safety of the public.”

Once it was only irresponsible bibliophiles who walked into lampposts and the occasional car, but the smartphone has democratised pedestrian recklessness to the point where we can all engage with our microliths to wilfully ignore the dangers surrounding us.

That might mean humorously tumbling into a fountain, or getting way too close to a wild bear (as the ABC video below demonstrates), or rather-less-amusingly walking into the path of a car moving at speed - an act which has killed three Fort Lee residents this year already.

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Although it's an offence in the US, jaywalking isn't illegal in the UK; we're allowed to take our life in our hands whenever we wish, but it is nice to see the police applying an existing law rather than pushing for the creation of a new one.

Making laws is cheap, which is why we have a ban on using a mobile while driving when the rules on due care and attention were perfectly adequate, but laws are expensive to enforce, which is why drivers continue to text and speak to each other with alacrity.

So Fort Lee should be commended for enforcing existing laws, even if it seems harsh to blame those being hit by cars for lacking the sense to stay out of their way. There's little denying that tapping away on a screen while walking is dangerous, and if Fort Lee can reduce its accident statistics by fining a few people then expect the idea to be quickly picked up elsewhere. ®

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