TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, which creates a stronger statewide ban on the use of hand-held electronic devices by motorists, passed the full Senate today by a vote of 34 to 0. Bill S-1099 will help crack down on dangerous driving habits by making driving while using a hand-held electronic device, such as a cell phone, a primary offense rather than a secondary offense as it currently stands.
“Cell phones have become a sign of the times in today’s fast-paced world. But there’s a time and a place for everything,” said Sen. Codey. ” Drivers already have enough distractions. Nine times out of ten, if someone cuts me off on the road, they are usually on their cell phone, not paying careful attention to the road. When you’re driving down the Turnpike at 65 mph, adding a cell phone to the mix is not only inappropriate, it’s downright dangerous.”
Under the legislation, a police officer could write a summons to a motorist simply for using a hand-held device while driving. The ban is currently enforced as a secondary offense, which means another offense must occur first in order for an officer to issue a summons for violating the hand-held device ban.
Recent studies underscore the dangers of using hand-held devices while driving. Motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times as likely to get into serious crashes, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Also, talking on cell phones caused far more crashes and near misses than any other distraction in a car, according to a joint study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
The ban would go into effect on the first day of the fourth month after the bill is signed into law by the Governor in order to allow time for public education.