New Jersey Legislature OKs tougher distracted driving rules

| 7/12/2007

In an effort to make the state’s roadways safer, the New Jersey Legislature has approved a bill that would give law enforcement greater authority to ticket drivers for being distracted.

The Assembly and Senate voted to send to Gov. Jon Corzine legislation that would allow police to pull over drivers for typing, reading or sending text messages while at the wheel. The bill – S1099 – also would allow primary enforcement of the state's ban on drivers using any cell phone that is not a “hands-free” device.

In 2004, New Jersey made it illegal to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving. The law, however, allows police to ticket drivers only if they are stopped for another offense.

If signed into law, New Jersey would become the fifth state to adopt the stricter rule. Only Washington has banned text messaging while behind the wheel.

Violators of the cell phone restriction would face $100 fines. “Texting” while driving would also result in $100 fines.

Efforts to curb the practice of using electronic wireless devices, such as a BlackBerry device, while driving have picked up steam following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. Nearly three-quarters of drivers use cell phones.

“Clearly, this is a problem that will become more severe in the future as wireless communications become more commonplace,” David Mayer, D-Gloucester, said in a written statement. “We need to act now to discourage it.”

Corzine’s administration hasn't indicated whether he will sign the bill into law.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2007, click here.