New Jersey bill targets driver distractions

| 2/8/2006

A New Jersey state lawmaker has introduced a bill intended to address the increasing problem of distracted driving.

Sponsored by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Parlin, the bill would prohibit drivers in the state from engaging in any activity not related to the operation of the vehicle “in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle.”

Law enforcement would record on tickets the specific nature of the distracted driving behavior. Those distractions are not listed in the bill but are presumed to include actions such as eating, smoking, reading or applying cosmetics.

Wisniewski said while no list was included in the bill, it would give police flexibility in determining distractions.

The bill also would permit police to pull over drivers simply for talking on a hand-held cell phone. Currently, drivers in the state can only be cited for using a hand-held phone when they are stopped for another offense, such as speeding.

Existing New Jersey law limits drivers to the use of “hands-free” devices, but still allows drivers to dial, answer and turn on their cell phones. The fine amount for violating the rule is between $100 and $250.

Wisniewski’s bill would make any distracted driving activity, including cell phone use, punishable by a $100 fine.

A1966 is in the Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee.