NOTE: This story has been updated.
Texting while walking will get you scrapes, cuts, sprains, even YouTube fame if you happen to fall into a fountain at the mall ... but rumors aside, it won't get you a $120 fine in Philadelphia. So shut up about it, says Philadelphia's mayoral office. Don't even make jokes about it!
Outrage ran rampant Tuesday morning over news that as part of the "Give Respect, Get Respect" program, Philly Fuzz would issue $120 fines to text-destrians who "text while they walk without looking ahead."
Not true, according to Mayor Michael Nutter, who took to Twitter to quell the rumor, tweeting, "It is NOT illegal to text and walk in Philly. You will NOT be fined. You will NOT be ticketed."
What's more, mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald isn't pleased with those making jokes about it — at least not Gawker's Max Read who wrote this enthusiastic response to a law many of us big-city walkers would welcome: "There is nothing I would like cops to be doing more right now than giving tickets to these people, unless it is actually arresting them and putting them in jail, or possibly just executing them on the spot Judge Dredd-style."
In response to Read's post, McDonald told Gawker, "Your whack job reporter can spin his puerile fantasies about doing violence to people he does not like, but he first needs to get his facts straight."
So how did this mishegas get spread? WPVI reports:
A report that texting and walking would be a ticketable offense from a local news station was picked up by a number of news networks and blogs overnight.
The stories quoted Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler.
However, when contacted by Action News on Tuesday, Cutler said that is not true. Furthermore, she questioned how such a law could even be enforced.
Well, it's not as if there's not support for such a law.
Two lawmakers in other states sought to put an end to this habit that's as annoying as it is dangerous. Alas, they probably overstepped their boundaries by lumping cellphone use, iPods and earphones — even with one ear free — to their proposed bans.
Earlier this year, an onslaught of outraged emails caused Arkansas State Sen. Jimmy Jeffress to back off his proposal to ban pedestrians from wearing headphones in both ears while "on, parallel or adjacent to a street, road, intersection or highway," according to the Associated Press. "The measure also applies to runners and cyclists and would allow pedestrians to wear headphones in one ear."
Meanwhile, New York State Sen. Carl Kruger continued the fight he began in 2007 to ban pedestrian's use of cellphones, iPods and other devices in New York's major cities. "It’s important to press the issue, because it’s an issue worthy of the pressure," Kruger told the AP. "There is a definite, demonstrated need for this legislation."
Indeed. And maybe if Senators Jeffress and Kruger separated headphones and iPods from texting, they'd get some traction on their proposals.
Way back in 2008, ER doctors cited rising reports from doctors around the country of injuries involving text-messaging pedestrians, as well as bicyclists, Rollerbladers and Segway riders and even equestrians.
ER doctors who responded to a recent informal query from the organization reported two deaths, both in California. A San Francisco woman was killed by a pickup truck earlier this year when she stepped off a curb while texting, and a Bakersfield man was killed last year by a car while crossing the street and texting.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has no national estimate on how common texting-related injuries are. But since 2005, the agency has received at least seven reports of serious texting mishaps, including a 15-year-old girl who fell off her horse while texting, suffering head and back injuries, and a 13-year-old girl who suffered belly, leg and arm burns after texting her boyfriend while cooking noodles.
Other reports include a 39-year-old man who suffered a head injury after crashing his bicycle into a tree while texting and a 16-year-old boy who suffered a concussion because he was texting while walking and banged into a telephone pole.
Turns out, getting a $120 ticket isn't nearly the worst thing that can happen when you're texting and walking.
More on the annoying way we live now:
Helen A.S. Popkin abhors, with an equal fervor, walking texters and people who lie to get out of jury duty. Get your fill of her pedantry on Popkin on Facebook and Twitter.