TRENTON – Senate President Richard J. Codey is continuing his push in the new legislative session for a stronger statewide ban on the use of hand-held electronic devices by motorists in an effort to crack down on dangerous driving habits. Bill S-1099, which Sen. Codey re-introduced two weeks ago, was passed out of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veteran’s Affairs Committee by a vote of 3 to 0 today. The committee agreed to one amendment – rather than going into effect immediately, the ban would go into effect on the first day of the fourth month after the law is signed in order to allow more time for public education.
“Cell phones have become a sign of the times in today’s fast-paced world. To most of us they represent convenience,” said Sen. Codey. “But there’s a time and a place for everything. Drivers already have enough distractions. 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, using a hand-held device while driving would become a primary offense, which means a police officer could write a summons to a motorist simply for using a hand-held device. The ban is currently enforced as a secondary offense, which means another offense must occur 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.