New Jersey Assembly panel backs cell phone ban

| 12/15/2003

New Jersey lawmakers Dec. 11 advanced two measures that would make it illegal for drivers to chat on hand-held cell phones, Today’s Sunbeam reported.

Both bills would fulfill Gov. James McGreevey’s call to make New Jersey the second state in the nation to ban talking on phones while driving; New York has a similar law.

The proposals now head to the full Assembly for consideration.

“There’s no doubt that a ban on hand-held cell phones – requiring drivers to keep both hands on the wheel – will save lives,” McGreevey said in a statement shortly after the Assembly Transportation Committee approved the bills. “I’m encouraged by the process in the Legislature and look forward to signing a ban into law.”

The first measure has already passed the Senate. SB338 would prohibit hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted.

The infraction would be a secondary offense, meaning police could only ticket drivers if pulled over for some other offense, the newspaper reported. Violators could be fined up to $250.

The bill would exempt emergency calls.

A separate measure – A3939 – advanced by the transportation panel would make it illegal for drivers to engage in any activity that would be distracting.

Under the proposal, such activities as eating, drinking, reading, gabbing on a phone or grooming could result in a fine. Such infractions would be a secondary offense.