New Jersey lawmakers target improper use of lasers

| 5/5/2006

As if there aren’t enough things to worry about while driving down the road, dodging lasers is becoming an increasing problem for truckers and other drivers across the country.

In New Jersey, an effort in the state Legislature would levy hefty fines on people who aim laser lighting devices at people operating airplanes, cars, trucks, buses, trains, trolleys and other vehicles.

The bill won unanimous support in the Assembly earlier this year and has been forwarded to the Senate for further consideration.

Laser pointer manufacturers told the Tampa Tribune they don’t have a problem with cracking down on those who abuse the technology that allows users to point to objects as far away as 25,000 feet. The pointers are popular among astronomers for pointing out stars.

The issue of laser pointers gained notoriety a couple of years ago when a New Jersey man allegedly aimed a laser at a plane landing at the Teterboro, NJ, airport. He said he was pointing out a star to his daughter.

Since then, several news reports from around the country have detailed instances when people shined laser lights at vehicles, aircrafts and law enforcement officers.

Concerns about improper use of laser pointers led Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to sign a bill last year that makes it a felony to aim the devices at people operating airplanes, cars, trucks, boats or other transportation.

Florida’s law specifies that anyone who shines a laser at a moving vehicle could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Violators could get 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine if the incident causes an injury.

The New Jersey bill would fine anyone who shines a laser at a vehicle as much as $1,000. A laser-wielding scofflaw would also face up to six months in jail.

If the usage of a laser causes injury, stiffer penalties would result.

The New Jersey bill – A415 – would also prohibit persons from throwing or shooting something at vehicles as well as delaying or preventing the operation of vehicles. Placing such items as sticks and stones on a runway also would be prohibited.