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N.J. Medical Center Offers Distracted Driver Course To End ‘Epidemic’

Expert: Texting While Walking Can Be Dangerous, Too

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Distracted driving is a growing problem, so a local hospital is trying to put a stop to it with an alarming course designed to make drivers think twice before picking up a handheld device.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported Wednesday, the Jersey City Medical Center puts the public through a walking course with fake lights, stop signs and crosswalks — things you would come across behind the wheel of a car — to show how dangerous driving and texting can be.

“We’re giving them a calculator to simulate a cellphone and giving them a math equation that they’re going to type in as they’re walking the course, following all the rules of the road,” Marissa Fisher with Jersey City Medical Center told Sloan.

Sloan reported she took the course and failed miserably.

“We’re basically causing a distraction, we’re basically asking you to do something and then distracting you while you do it. Which is the same as you’re driving a car and you’re texting or on your phone at the same time,” Fisher told Sloan.

Officials at the medical center said the majority of people who take the walking course fail it.

“I think texting while driving as well as texting while walking are both becoming epidemics in the country and it’s something that we really need to take a hard look at,” Jersey Center Medical Center EMS director Robert Luckritz told Sloan.

Authorities said distracted driving is likely to blame for Tuesday’s fatal West New York accident.

Bus driver Idowu Daramolo allegedly crashed into a lamppost, which landed on a stroller, killing the 8-month-old baby inside.

West New York residents said they’ve seen bus drivers on cellphones behind the wheel many times.

“It’s not unusual as you pass them to at them. They have money in one hand, a cell phone in the other hand, they’re driving with their knees, steering with the palm of their hand,” Mark Quartello told Sloan.

Residents said it happens despite a new law in the Garden State that increases penalties for using handheld devices while driving.

And as 1010 WINS’ Gene Michaels reported, texting while walking can be dangerous, too. Michaels said he saw a man this weekend who fell flat on his face onto a curb and smashed his phone as he texted while walking.

“Unfortunately, in a big city, it can go far beyond just tripping over a curb,” Luckritz said. “It can be stepping out into traffic, or stepping into a place where you don’t belong, and it’s unsafe, and you can end up with some real critical injuries.”

Months ago in Fort Lee, N.J., texting while walking was outlawed. Lawmakers noticed a lot of jaywalkers had their noses to their phones.

The Jersey City Medical Centers puts members of corporations through the walking course. Next week, they’ll be presenting the program to the Port Authority.

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