Bill Penalizing Distracted Driving & Enhancing Ban On Hand-Held Cell Phone Use While Driving Advances

shattered windshield mva lkwd tlsLegislation that would penalize distracted driving and enhance the state’s existing hands-free cell phone law was released today from the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. The bill was sponsored by Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski.

“Year after year reports are issued that describe the dangers of driving distracted, whether it’s texting while driving or using other handheld devices,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) the transportation panel’s chair. “Yet, horrific car accidents with distracted driving as the root cause continue to occur on New Jersey roadways. That has to change.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) distracted driving micro-website, distracted driving can be classified as any activity that takes a driver’s hands off the wheel, their eyes off the road or their mind off the task of driving. The site reports a nine percent one-year increase in the number of crashes with distracted driving as the root cause; 421,000 in 2012, compared to 387,000 in 2011.

Under Wisniewski’s bill (A-4461) motorists operating a vehicle on New Jersey’s roadways would be prohibited from engaging in any activity not related to the safe operation of the vehicle. Violators would face fines between $200 to $400 for a first offense; $400 to $600 for a second offense; and $600 to $800 for a third or subsequent offense. A third or subsequent offense could also result in a 90 day driver’s license suspension and the assignment of motor vehicle points, at the discretion of the courts. In all instances, the ticketing officer would be required to detail the specific nature of the distracted driving on the summons.

The measure also would strengthen the state’s existing hand-held cell phone ban, allowing law enforcement to assume that the cell phone is in use and that the user is violating the law if the cellphone is being held near the motorist’s head or ear.

“At the end of the day, this legislation is about one thing: safety,” said Wisniewski. “At highway speeds, a car accident can happen in the space of a few seconds. Making someone think twice before reaching for their cellphone or watching a video while driving could be all that separates a safe trip from one that ends in an accident. And that’s an inconvenience that, frankly, we should all be able to live with.”

The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote. [TLS]

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4 COMMENTS

  1. It think we can all agree that texting while driving is akin to attempted murder. You are willfully not looking at the road while operating a massive heavy piece of machinery at high speeds. I think that texting is a pretty clear a defined action that can be punished. distracted driving is pretty ambiguous and can definitely lend itself to abuse by law enforcement i.e. ticketing blowing your nose but WE MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT TEXTING WHILE DRIVING,.

  2. To have a society that constantly requires laws and punishment, is akin to totalitarianism. Creating more and more laws to strengthen law enforcement and give them the ability to exercise powers to torture others is not acceptable and is a symptom of left wing culture. This proposed law will enable a police officer to subjectively pull people over and claim they were changing radio stations, washing their windshield, drinking a soda, scratching their nose. All these would qualify as distractions. Laws don’t stop people from doing it, look around you talking on a cell phone has been illegal for years, yet everyone does it. What works is education, example, etc. All they do is give the state and law enforcement another way to tax you and take your money.

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