Should texting be banned in public? It’s quite an extreme view but it’s one that Carl Kruger, a New York State Senator, holds. And he’d like to see a $100 fine imposed upon anyone breaking this proposed change in the law.
Why? Well he thinks it’s dangerous.
There’s been plenty of news in recent years about the dangers of using a mobile phone when driving, but not as a pedestrian. Yet those walking while using their mobile phones might be putting themselves at risk.
When talking on the phone, only half a mind’s on what’s around you – add listening to headphones and staring at a screen into the mix, and your senses become even more limited.
The difficulties of multimedia multitasking
I don’t agree with Carl Kruger that the act should be outlawed, but I can see his concern. I walk to work on a daily basis – a walk that takes me around 45 minutes. When people ask me why I don’t listen to music during the walk, I reply that it’s because I prefer to have my wits about me.
I also struggle to text when walking. Reading a text is about the extent to which my multitasking capabilities stretch. Recently Patrick Steen asked whether we needed voice recognition to reduce accidents when texting, after research presented at the British Science Festival suggested that as many as one in ten Brits had fallen foul to accidents when texting. And a story in the Mirror three years ago claimed that six million of us had walked into lamp posts during the act.
Other than voice recognition, another possible solution is the use of the Email ‘n’ Walk iPhone app that turns your phone transparent. It does this by rendering what the camera sees on the screen beneath the text, which might prevent a few collisions.
Would a ban make us more sociable?
So far we’ve only looked at the safety issues, which are inarguably the most important, but what of courtesy to others? How many times has a person chatting on their phone got in your way? And what of the irritating noise escaping through badly-fitting headphones on the train? Suddenly personal media isn’t quite so personal.
People often ask why such offenders need to play their music so loud, and the answer is usually because the headphones they’re using are so poor at keeping out other noise – such as traffic.
But it’s the people who don’t use headphones at all that bother me most, and instead play music directly through the tinny speakers on their phones or MP3 players. It’s rarely the music that offends me, per se, but instead the intolerable audio quality.
So while I’m not in the same camp as Carl Kruger, who believes users should be fined for using their phones while walking, I would like to see more caution and courtesy exercised when using personal devices in public.