Should we be penalizing people like this or just accept that it’s a (sometimes hilarious) side-effect of the Information Age? The authorities in Fort Lee, New Jersey, are choosing the former.
In a recent quasi-legal move, police officers in the village have shifted their position on “twexting” (worst technological lexicon combination ever) and will begin to hit these messengers with a summons ticket if spotted. According to the police chief of the town, 23 accidents have occurred due to the twexting “epidemic,” giving his force enough reason to penalize the activity all together. Except one thing: is that legal?
The move mostly focuses on people who disregard the traffic rule. For example, Susan may walk against a stop light because she is so enveloped in sending “Lolz.” However, the new rule is being extended to include mobile music as well so unknowingly changing a song on your iPhone may land you a seat in traffic court.
This kind of textual mischief is described by the Fort Lee authorities as “dangerous walking” – a phrase that doesn’t really make any sense but happens to mean walking that is dangerous. It’s a crossroads between mobile technology and jay-walking and, if Giuliani’s ban in the 90s was any example, this never works out well because of logistics: how can anyone “crackdown” on something as miniscule and daily as twexting? Even the NYPD couldn’t.
Also, the move doesn’t seem to have any legal basis: the Huffington Post notes that, as of now, there is “no law on the books against dangerous walking” in the Fort Lee community. But, now that Fort Lee has made a move that other states like Pennsylvania and Arkansas were considering, it’s unpredictable how serious this “dangerous walking” thing could get.
As citizens of the 21st century, we must protect our right to walk into fountain malls. It’s our idiotic choice.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 12, 2012