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Distracted Driving Bill Advances in Trenton [AUDIO]

Legislation approved by an Assembly panel on Monday would crack down on distracted driving in New Jersey.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski-D (Facebook)
Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D) (Facebook)

Under the bill sponsored by Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), motorists operating a vehicle would be prohibited from engaging in any activity that’s not related to the safe operation of the vehicle. Violators would face fines from $200 to $400 for a first offense, $400 to $600 for a second offense, and up to $800 for a third or subsequent offense. Once a third violation is committed, the driver could be subject to a loss of license and the assignment of motor vehicle points.

“The goal of any legislation like this is not to issue summonses, but to change behavior,” said Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. “Making someone think twice before reaching for their cell phone or watching a video while driving could be all that separates a safe trip from one that ends in an accident.”

The bill, though, could reach beyond cell phone and GPS use. It would be up to law enforcement to determine if a driver is distracted behind the wheel.

Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill in July that puts a similar penalty structure in place for violators of the state’s hands-free cell phone law. The law goes into effect next summer.

Wisniewski’s bill would also allow law enforcement to assume that a cell phone is always in use if it’s being held near a motorist’s head or ear. The driver can then refute that claim.

If granted by Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, the measure would head to the full Assembly for a vote.

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