The earphone cops are coming.
Legislators in New York and Arkansas are fiddling with proposals to penalize distracted pedestrians. Specifically targeted are people texting while walking or those jogging with headphones. The crackdown on pedestrians follows a surge of legislation over the past couple of years against distracted driving. It’s also punctuated by the comical case of a texting shopper who took a header into a mall pool recently.
I’ve always been in favor of distracted driving being regulated, based on the common sense that anyone guiding around a 3,000-pound weapon should have full attention focused while behind the wheel. But attempting to leash walkers and joggers is ridiculous and creepily intrusive. Clumsy or air-headed pedestrians are a danger mostly to themselves, unlike drivers of speeding autos. It’s laughable that strapped local governments anywhere would see any sanity in having their police officers spend time looking to bust scofflaw gadget pedestrians.
Here I must disclose a personal bias on the jogging issue. For years, I’ve been jogging with an iPod and earbuds. It has been no hindrance to awareness of my surroundings. I keep the volume low enough to let in most background noise. Plus, I obey all other jogger-safety rules such as running against traffic. I never cross a road or intersection without a 360-degree visual recon first. I’m guessing that my grooving to Lynyrd Skynyrd and U2 even helps keep me more alert during what can become otherwise monotonous outings.
There are good reasons state governments have extensive processes that legislative proposals must undergo before they become law. In this case, the deliberative steps, it is hoped, will allow plenty of time for level-headed lawmakers to shoot down fussing-nanny pedestrian control bills.