New Jersey law toughens distracted driving rules

| 11/16/2007

In an effort to make New Jersey roadways safer, Gov. Jon Corzine signed a bill into law giving law enforcement greater authority to ticket drivers for being distracted.

The new law, previously S1099, allows police to pull over drivers for typing, reading or sending text messages while at the wheel. The bill also allows primary enforcement of the state’s ban on using any cell phone that is not a “hands-free” device.

“We need to remind motorists that they should be paying attention to the road, not chatting or writing messages to their friends,” Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, said in a written statement.

The new law takes effect March 1, 2008.

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.

Authorizing primary enforcement of the restriction makes New Jersey the fifth state to adopt such a rule. Washington was the first state to ban text messaging while behind the wheel.

Violators of the cell phone restriction in the Garden State 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.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor