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BYU-Idaho town outlaws texting, crossing street; study reveals dangers

In this photo taken Wednesday, June, 29, 2010, a woman text messages while walking across the street in San Francisco.
In this photo taken Wednesday, June, 29, 2010, a woman text messages while walking across the street in San Francisco.
Associated Press

REXBURG, Idaho — In Rexburg, you may be able to chew gum and walk at the same time, but you can't text and walk across the street.

New signs have been posted all over the city to remind BYU-Idaho students, who started school back up last week, of the law enacted in April that makes it illegal to cross the street and text at the same time, according to a local news station.

Police will be handing out $50 fines for sending just one text while crossing the street, the media outlet reported.

Texting and walking may not be illegal in many cities, but it has become a hot-button issue all over the country.

One writer for the StarTribune in Minnesota even recently called texting while walking — what she deemed as TWW — "a crime against humanity." She goes on to say that people seem to have decided that "being a pedestrian is just too pedestrian for our multitasking selves."

As part of a new etiquette campaign, New York City has signs that say "No Texting While Walking," according to an article in Today's THV last week.

The University of Kentucky's newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, recently had an article reminding students of the dangers of texting and walking titled "Friends don't let friends text and walk."

And earlier this month, Chicago's chairman of the City Council's Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety proposed that bikers not be allowed to use their cell phone while biking, which includes texting or talking on the phone, unless the person uses a hands-free device, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

People have been counseled time and again against texting and driving (and many states, including Utah, outlaw the practice), but a new study out by the University of Alabama says texting while walking can be a hazard, too.

"Researchers found that the children who were distracted by a cell phone did not pay close attention to traffic and were more likely to be hit by an oncoming car, compared to those children who were not distracted by a cell phone," a Greensboro, N.C., news station wrote last week.

Specifically, the study showed schoolchildren using cellphones took 20 percent longer to cross the street and were 20 percent less likely to look both ways. They also were 43 percent more likely to get hit by a car.

The StarTribune cited incident after incident of people getting hurt because they were too distracted by their phone. A Long Island teen fell into a construction hole while playing thumb hockey on her phone. A string of pedestrians who were texting in San Francisco were mugged earlier this year. And who can forget the woman who fell into a fountain in a mall while texting in January.

On one busy street in London, "authorities wrapped lampposts with padding" after there were 68,000 texting mishaps reports in 2007, wrote North Carolina's