Hands Free…Walking?


Massachusetts is considering a bill that would raise fines on jaywalking, especially if individuals are caught texting and crossing the street. If passed, Massachusetts would join a growing group of states that have added or raised fines for distracted walking.

Currently, the fine for jaywalking in Massachusetts is $1. The proposed changes would raise the base fine to $25 for the first offense, $50 for a second offense, and $100 for a third offense. Fines would go up significantly if individuals are also found to be walking and texting – $50 for the first offense, $100 the second time and $200 the third time.

The proposed fines are broadly in line with those considered in other states. New Jersey’s legislature also started with a $50 fine for the first offense of distracted walking. Connecticut’s initial fine is slightly lower – $30. In Honolulu, Hawaii which passed it’s own law earlier this year, the first offense is $35 but subsequent offenses climb as high as $99.

Most cities already ban texting and driving, but there is a growing chorus of support for banning crossing the street and texting as distracted individuals in the crosswalk can be as dangerous as distracted drivers. Supporters of the bills have pointed out that when it comes to traffic accidents involving individuals, more often than not, drivers are found at fault which may not be entirely accurate if pedestrians are more focused on phone screens than what’s happening in the street.

For cities that haven’t opted to increase fines, many of them are opting for public information campaigns to attempt to educate individuals about the dangers of focusing on screens while walking through traffic.