Should Walking While Texting Be Illegal?

October 20th, 2009 by Kathy McManus

Accidents have lawmakers wondering if our texting habits need to be curbed

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Exactly forty years after a man first stepped on the moon, a walking, texting teenager took another giant leap forward and stepped into an open manhole, becoming the latest case-study of responsibility in America. 

City workers in Staten Island, New York had just removed the manhole cover but hadn’t yet secured the area when a 15-year-old girl—focused on a phone—walked right in. “I felt this big drop,” she said. “It was four or five feet. It was very painful.” Apologetic workers helped the teen out of the hole, and doctors checked her scrapes before pronouncing her not seriously injured. 

The girl’s mother declared she would sue. “Oh my god, it was putrid,” she said. “One of her sneakers is still down there.” 

The latest tale of WWT—walking while texting—struck a nerve with those wondering where the all-thumbs effect of constant texting is leading. “This girl was just plain dumb. She should have been watching where she was going,” was typical of responses on blogs and message boards. “Open up all the manholes and send all the texting idiots into them,” said another. Others blamed the work crew. “No barriers, no tape, no cones = Negligence,” one said. 

Teen texting has exploded. According to a recent study, American teenagers send and receive an average of 2,272 text messages each month—almost 80 messages a day. WWT incidents are on the rise as well. Two weeks before the manhole mishap, an Indiana teen crossing a road while texting was struck and killed by a car. In England, a 17-year-old walking while texting stepped straight into the path of a waiting thief who stole his phone. 

“The deep, black hole of responsibility,” is how a newspaper editorial summed up the tumbling manhole texting incident, while posing the obvious next question: “Do we need ‘protect society from itself’ laws?” 

Tell us what you think: Who’s responsible for the accident—the texter? The work crew? All of them? Should walking while texting be restricted by law?