New Jersey bills would enhance rules on driver distractions, headlight use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, December 02, 2013

With about one month remaining to get bills through the New Jersey statehouse, lawmakers continue to push through efforts that would improve safety on the state roadways.

The Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee voted unanimously to advance one bill that would bar drivers from such activities as eating, drinking, smoking or applying makeup while at the wheel.

Specifically, the bill would prohibit “any activity” unrelated to driving a vehicle.

Assembly Transportation Chairman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, told committee members he offered the bill to enhance rules needed to help reduce incidents of distracted driving.

“It creates another method for law enforcement to enforce our preference that people pay attention to the road and not their electronic devices,” Wisniewski said.

Violators would face the same fines set for talking on a hand-held cellphone. First-time offenders would be responsible for paying as much as $400. Repeat offenders would face fines up to $600. Subsequent offenses would result in $800 fines and the possibility of a license suspension and vehicle points.

Wisniewski said “at the end of the day, this legislation is about one thing: safety.”

A4461 awaits further consideration on the Assembly floor. If approved there, it would move to the Senate.

However, time is short to get bills through the statehouse. The legislative year is scheduled to wrap up on Jan. 13, 2014.

Another bill that can be voted on by the full Assembly would require drivers to flip on their headlights when driving through road construction.

A4458 would require signage to be posted to alert travelers to the rule.

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