New Jersey, Florida take steps to improve road safety

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, July 08, 2013

A New Jersey law puts in place a “three strikes” policy when dealing with distracted drivers. Two new Florida laws also cover the issue.

New Jersey law already allows police to pull over drivers for typing, reading or sending text messages while at the wheel. It also allows primary enforcement of the state’s ban on using any cellphone that is not a hands-free device.

In place since 2004, the law was changed to allow for primary enforcement in 2008. Violators face $100 fines.

Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill to stiffen penalties for drivers who get caught talking on a handheld device or texting while driving. It takes effect in summer 2014.

First-time offenders would face fines between $200 and $400 – up from $100. Repeat offenses could result in $600 fines, while subsequent offenses could cost as much as $800.

Third-time offenders would also face the loss of driving privileges for 90 days. In addition, three points would be added to licenses.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union/Morris/Somerset, said that driving is a privilege that comes with the responsibility of devoting one’s full attention to the road.

“Those who fail to take this responsibility seriously endanger themselves, their passengers and other drivers,” Munoz said in a news release. “Respecting and abiding by the rules of the road is not an option, it is mandatory and now the law.”

In Florida, multiple changes to the state’s distracted driving rules now are in effect or will take effect in the months ahead.

The first rule change brings the state into compliance with federal rules prohibiting commercial drivers’ use of hand-held cellphones and texting while behind the wheel. It took effect immediately.

Florida secured some federal money with the changes. Failure to make the change could’ve resulted in the state losing out on 4 percent of federal highway funds the first year.

Also signed into law is a new rule that makes texting while driving for motorists a secondary offense, meaning drivers could only be cited if they were pulled over for another reason, such as speeding. Texting violators would face $30 fines.

The new rule for motorists takes effect Oct. 1.

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