Since 2008, using your cellphone while driving has been against the law in New Jersey. Despite this, distracted driving remains a huge danger in the Garden State. State authorities say that distracted drivers have been the single biggest cause of fatal car accidents since 2011.
It is unfortunately clear that banning things like texting or calling and driving has not gotten the problem under control. One reaction could be to expand the anti-distracted driving law. That is probably the thinking behind a bill in the New Jersey Legislature that would specifically criminalize using your phone while your car is stopped in traffic. The bill was introduced way back in February but recently passed the Senate Transportation Committee on a unanimous vote.
What’s in the bill?
If it becomes law, the bill would ban texting or talking on the phone while a driver’s vehicle is temporarily stopped — that is, stuck in a traffic jam or idling at a red light. Some might question if it is truly “distracted driving” if the vehicle is not moving. But responsible drivers know that they need to be attentive and focused on the road at all times if they want to minimize the chances of a serious auto wreck. The bill only allows talking and texting when the driver has pulled over and is out of traffic.
A first offense under this new bill would cost from $200 to $400. For a second offense, the fine would go up to $400 to $600. And a third offense would trigger a driver’s license suspension for as long as three months, plus an $800 fine.
It’s up to drivers to make traffic safety a priority
Legislative efforts like this help. But until the general public recognizes the dangers of distracted driving and makes a sincere effort to put their phones away until they get to their destination, distracted driving car accidents will still be a problem in Trenton and across New Jersey.