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Madden, Greenstein Bill to Create ‘Task Force on Driver Distractions’ Passes Senate

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred Madden and Senate Law and Public Safety Committee Chair Linda Greenstein, which would create the “Task Force on Distracted Driving,” passed the Senate today.

“Even with the number of deaths and injuries that have occurred as a result of distracted driving, we still see people on our roadways texting and talking while behind the wheel,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “We have taken action to prevent texting and driving on our roadways, but statistics show that it is still happening at an alarming rate. Technology is at our fingertips, and drivers are becoming more and more tempted to send and read text messages or emails but as a former police officer, I can tell you that any second your eyes are off the road is a dangerous second.”

Under the bill, S-561, the task force’s charge would be to study and develop recommendations concerning the issue of driver distractions and highway safety including, but not limited to, electronic communication devices and non-technological activities.

“Ensuring public safety on our roadways is paramount and we need to take a serious look at how we can crack down on distracted driving,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Keeping your eyes on the road is key to maintaining control and staying alert for any potential hazards, and this task force would provide us with valuable information that would save lives.”

The task force created under the bill would consist of 13 members: the Commissioner of Transportation, ex officio (non-voting member), or a designee; the Commissioner of Education, ex officio, or a designee; the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, ex officio, or a designee; the Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety, ex officio, or a designee; the Superintendent of State Police, ex officio, or a designee; a member of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey or a designee; a member of the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association or a designee; a member of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police or a designee; a member of the Insurance Council of New Jersey or a designee; a member of the Driving School Association of New Jersey or a designee; and three public members, who shall have education or experience in highway traffic.

The three public members would be appointed by the Governor, one of whom would be appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Speaker of the General Assembly and one of whom would be appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the President of the Senate.

The bill would require the task force to develop recommendations for public and private strategies and recommendations for legislative or regulatory action, if deemed appropriate, to address the issue of driver distractions. The recommendations would include suggestions for the development of a public information campaign to increase the awareness of the risks associated with driving distractions and to educate and inform motorists of methods to eliminate or minimize these risks.

In 2013, Senator Madden was the sponsor of “Nikki’s Law”, which requires the DOT Commissioner to erect signs and use variable message signs to inform motorists of State law prohibiting texting while driving. Furthermore, Senator Madden sponsored legislation which set the penalties for distracted driving in New Jersey as follows:

• $200-$400 fine for a first offense.
• $400-$600 fine for a second offense.
• $600-$800 fine, three motor vehicle points, and up to a 90-day license suspension for a third offense.

The bill was voted out by the Senate with a vote of 39-0.

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