Lakewood Police Chief Greg Meyer answers your ‘Ask The Chief’ questions: Cell phone usage

The following is an ‘Ask The Chief’ question submitted to TLS, and the Chief’s response. Email your questions for the Chief to [email protected].


Dear Chief Meyer, thank you for this forum.

I was wondering if you can please clarify the cell phone laws, as this may help keep us from an undesirable interaction with the law.

  1. Can one use a cell phone while the vehicle is not in motion, for example at a red light?
  2. Can my phone be positioned between my ear and my shoulder while both hands are on the wheel?
  3. If my phone is in a holder on the dashboard can I use it then?
  4. Is it a problem to hold the phone, even though I am not using it?
  5. What does it mean to use the phone hands-free to make a call? informative road signs will display that message
  6. If we observe an officer on the phone while driving (yes it happens) can we report them?

The Chief’s Response:

1. No, the law states while operating the vehicle and although you’re not moving, an officer has no way of knowing how long you were looking at it or on it. Hands free only.

2. No, has to be a hands free operation, headset or blue tooth.

3. As long as it’s hands free and you are not texting by using the key pad with a hand or fingers, voice only.

4. Yes, as both hands are supposed to be on the steering wheel driving.

5. Not sure what you mean with this question.

6. Police officers are exempt from the cell phone law, as often headquarters is relaying important information to the officers securely over the phone and not tying up the radio.


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  1. According to NJ law you are allowed to pick up your cell phone by a red light if your not moving.
    In fact I had a judge dismiss a cellphone violation as it was by a red light.
    (I had video proof it was picked up at the light)
    Thank you

  2. Chief Meyer your a great chief and a fantastic asset to our town and our pd. While reading your answers I can’t help but ask they can all be ree answered with more specific answers that clarifies the perimeters of each law so that we can all know what is precisely lawful or not and not remain in the vague on any of the above.
    Thank you

  3. Re: Cops on the phone answer, that makes no sense
    1 He is also distracted
    2 if he hits me, its my fault?!?
    3 what if he texting, whatsapping or video calling etc. Is he still exempt?

    • Steve – in most cases the emergency vehicle is responsible for accidents. They have a lot of expensive insurance. Even when they go through red lights and such… they are responsible to be sure they do not hit anyone even though they can legally proceed. That said… you have to weigh their duties against the risk. You also have to consider their greater experience at operating under these conditions. It may be worth the extra minimal chance of an accident for them to save a life definitely at risk.

  4. The hands-free law is probably one of the biggest scams that the government ever came up with. Holding the phone while talkin on it doesn’t make you get into an accident or vice versa having it hands-free does not prevent you from getting into an accident it all depends on where your mind is. I’m not referring to the very dangerous Act of texting or going on social media or simply not looking on the road while driving because that is extremely dangerous. I’m referring to talking on the phone. If the law states that they’re afraid that a person will not drop their phone while talking on it then what’s the difference if I’m holding a hot cup of coffee for example, no one’s going to drop that while driving. It all depends on where your mind is not where your hands are. Many people while driving could be having a conversation with someone in the car or listening to a program on the radio and there mind is fully focused on those things and not on the road you just like talking on the phone.

    • It was proven that when you talk on the phone, your eyes don’t focus as well. At least talk with blue tooth, so that both hands are on the steering wheel.

  5. Brian they can’t use hands free devices because they have several other things they have to listen to. A radio that is going off all day. Not only listening for their calls but the other officers in town

  6. @Moish@24/6

    The law wasn’t drummed up as a way to raise revenue as you imply. It was crafted based on statistical evidence. Yes, it’s only statistics, but it’s the best which could be done to prevent people from getting into accidents, fatal or otherwise.

  7. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

    The wording of the relevant law, 39:4-97.3 states:
    “The use of a wireless telephone… by an operator of a moving motor vehicle on a public road or highway shall be unlawful…”

    There have been a few proposals to amend the current legislation to include the following words “including when the motor vehicle is stationary due to traffic, a traffic light, a stop sign or otherwise…”

    As far as I can tell, those proposals have not passed.

  8. You can easily set your phone to send back a text message with one press. Mine is “Can’t respond now, I’m driving. Hope you’re not.”

    • Why are we all so nervous about answering texts immediately!!! You can read and answer all of your texts after you finish driving. Why do you have to send the”can’t respond” text? Obviously if you don’t respond, it means that you can’t. If a person texts you and doesn’t get a response within a few minutes,if it is so important, they can always call, or if not, just wait for you to answer.

      this culture of immediately answering texts is terrible. It is what makes people not aware of their surroundings, and not being in the present with the people they are actually with.

  9. Police officers are actually not exempt from this law, they have the same laws as you and I, its just that emergency calls are not included, so they can always say it was a emergency where’s you cant!

  10. just stay off your PHONES WHILE DRIVING. I SEE DRIVERS ALL DAY NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THE ROAD. They run school bus lights, stop signs etc. JUST STAY OFF YOUR PHONE PERIOD>

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