A bill was introduced in the Nevada Assembly making it an offence for pedestrians to send or receive text messages while crossing a street or highway.
The bill was introduced yesterday by Harvey Munford, a Democratic member of the Nevada Assembly. If enacted into law, Assembly Bill 124 [PDF] would prohibit pedestrians from typing or entering text into cellphones or other handheld wireless devices while crossing a highway. It would also be against the law to read messages on such devices or surf the Internet while crossing the street.
There are several exemptions from the proposed law. Firefighters, ambulance attendants and other emergency medical personnel will not be bound by the law as long as they are acting in the course of their employment. Similarly, police officers are exempt under the bill.
Employees of and contractors working for public utility companies will not be bound by the proposed legislation provided the handheld device was issued by the company and the employee or contractor is responding to an emergency such as a power outage.
Other persons are exempt from the provisions if they are reporting a safety hazard, a medical emergency or are reporting or requesting assistance relating to criminal activity.
A person who disobeys the law for the first time will get a warning. During a seven year period, further offences become misdemeanors and a second offence will result in a fine of $100. Third and subsequent offences during that time period are punishable by fines of $250.00.
While the actual bill refers to "highways," Munford is quoted in the Reno Gazette-Journal as saying he wants the law to apply to all streets and roads in the state including those in residential areas. The legislator introduced the bill in light of the incidents of people texting while crossing streets.
A study by the Harborview Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of Washington, published in December 2012, examined 1,102 pedestrians crossing streets. The study found almost one in three people engaged in some form of distracting activity while crossing. These activities included listening to music, talking on the phone, and text messaging.
The study concluded those who were texting were 3.9 times more likely to engage in an unsafe activity while crossing the street than others who were not sending text messages.
Munford was busy on Thursday. In addition to the texting bill, Munford introduced Assembly Bill 123 that would impose a 5 cent fee on food items with more than 500 calories sold by fast food restaurants. Fast food restaurants are defined as those that serve food for immediate consumption and where the food is served on disposable plates or in disposable containers or wrappers.