New Jersey bill would outlaw text messaging

| 6/5/2007

In an attempt to make the state’s roadways a little safer, a New Jersey Assembly panel advanced a bill intended to limit driver distractions.

The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee voted unanimously to release a bill to the full chamber that would make it illegal to type, read or send text messages while at the wheel.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, the bill follows in the foot steps of a new state law in Washington. That state’s law makes it a secondary offense to drive while “texting” – meaning a person would have to be pulled over for another violation, such as speeding, before being ticketed. That new rule takes effect Jan. 1.

The New Jersey bill would allow police to pull over drivers solely for violating the rule. Offenders would face fines up to $250.

The state already prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones by all drivers. Police aren’t able to stop vehicles solely for violating the rule.

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. That number nearly doubles for drivers aged 18 to 27.

“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.”

The bill – A4146 – has been forwarded to the Assembly floor for possible consideration. An identical bill – S2764 – is awaiting assignment to committee in the Senate.

– Keith Goble, state legislative editor