If you’re caught texting while crossing the street in Fort Lee, N.J., you’d better be ready to cough up $85 for a ticket.
Police Chief Thomas Ripoli said that jaywalking had become a dangerous problem with pedestrians traveling while distracted by technology, be it their cellphones or mp3 players.
“They’re not walking in the crosswalks. They’re walking against the red light, and they’re being struck by vehicles,” Ripoli said today. “We had three fatalities this year, and 23 people hurt, hit, [in] a three-month period.”
Last year, 74 pedestrians were struck and two people were killed in Fort Lee, a city of 35,000, just across the Hudson River from New York City.
Officers started handing out pamphlets in March, but Ripoli said that when residents didn’t heed the warnings, the police started ticketing offenders.
According to The Record, the local newspaper, more than 117 tickets had been issued so far.
In 2008, according to an Ohio State University study, more than 1,000 people — double the previous year’s number — visited emergency rooms after they were injured while walking and talking on the telephone.
Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York found that texters were 60 percent more likely to veer off line than those walking and not texting.
Chief Ripoli said he hoped the jaywalking crackdown would encourage the public to become smarter when traveling on foot.
He said the tickets had nothing to do with collecting more money for the city.
“I’m here to make sure my officers and the public are safe,” he said. “We believe you should make eye contact with the vehicles when you’re crossing. … Technology is interfering a little bit with the safety of the public.”