Nanny State

NJ Legislator Wants to Throw You in Jail for 15 Days for Walking and Texting

More dumb laws, more complaints about law enforcement, more dumb laws, repeat.


The extra attention the problem of police violence has received from the political mainstream in the last two years has not really trickled down to the simpleton lawmakers that create the conditions for unnecessary police violence in the first place.

New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) introduced legislation on Monday that would criminalize distracted walking, or walking while using a non-hands-free cellphone. According to, the bill would treat the use of a cellphone by pedestrians the same way as jaywalking, with fines of up to $50 and up to 15 days in jail.

The text of the bill, AR3503, is no longer available on the New Jersey legislature's website and does not show up on a list of bills sponsored by Lampitt this legislative session. It is described in the database as a bill that "establishes motor vehicle offense of unlawful use of hand-held wireless telephone by pedestrians on roadways."

In 2010, there were a total of 133 pedestrian fatalities total in New Jersey according to the New Jersey Division of Highway Trafic Safety's 2012 Highway Safety Plan.

"If a person on the road, whether walking or driving, presents a risk to others on the road, there should be a law in place to dissuade and penalize risky behavior," Lampitt told the local CBS affiliate.

Of course, texting and walking doesn't present a significant risk to anyone but the person texting and walking, and it's not the role of government to "penalize risky behavior." It's not just a theoretical point about government but a practical one. Every law creates an opportunity for government to use force against individuals, introducing violence into non-violent situations and increasing risk for the non-violent lawbreakers as well as the police officers ordered to enforce the laws.

Last year, another assemblywoman, Gabriela Mosquera (D- Gloucester), tried to designate September as "Distracted Walking Awareness Month" but that bill failed to get through the committee, which doesn't leave much chance for Lampitt's effort even in the nanny state of New Jersey.