Trucking Industry News – New Jersey Bill Expands Distracted Driving Law

2013 US Trucking Industry News – New Jersey Bill Expands Distracted Driving Law

A new bill that is making its way through the New Jersey Legislature has aimed to curb all forms of distracted driving. This bill, also known as A4461, is sponsored by John Wisniewski, the Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman. This bill would expand on the state’s law on distracted driving. Also, it would now be considered illegal for any driver to participate in activities that is not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle, in a manner that infers with the safe operation of the vehicle on a public road or highway.

Bill A4461 addresses the growing problem of distracted driving. This bill prohibits a driver from partaking in activities that are not related to the operation of the vehicle, or in a manner that interferes with the vehicle’s safe operation. Law enforcement officers should record upon order the nature or behavior of the distracted driver.

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 86% of drivers have admitted to eating or drinking while driving. 37% of drivers have texted while driving at least once. And 18% of drivers have admitted that they have formed a habit of doing it often.

This bill also strengthens the existing law by prohibiting the use of a cellphone while the driver is operating a motor vehicle. This establishes a presumptive inference that a person who is holding a cellphone near the ear has made a violation of this law.

Things such as eating, applying makeup, texting, and reading a road map are all considered forms of distracted driving. The bill doesn’t specifically list what is defined as distracted driving, however. According to the New Jersey Star Ledger, it is up for the police to decide.

Winiewski has said that there is certainty no law against having video screens installed on the vehicles’ dashboards, as well as watching movies. He also mentioned that all of the examples stated are ridiculous, except the person either sees them happening, or reads about them having happened. Bill A4461 has already received approval from the New Jersey Transportation Committee, with a 12-0 vote in favor of the bill. If this bill is passed, then violators would face the same similar fines as cellphone users. These fines will range from $200 to $600. A suspended driver’s license for up to 90 days is also possible, as well as a motor vehicle points penalty at the discretion of the court. These points are only issued in the second or third offense.

Some have argued that the bill is too vague. Steve Carrellas, a representative for the National Motorists Association, has wondered if he can still adjust the radio, change a CD, or look at a map because of this bill. He also claims that this whole set of undefined behavior is something that people can perform in the car, even without driving. Wisniewski’s argument was if the driver creates an offense of being distracted while driving, then it’s pretty easy to define what being distracted is about: Not watching the road.

Wisniewski says that there are only two months until the legislative session ends, so it is unclear whether or not the bill will make it through the Senate and onto the desk of the Governor before the session ends.

Distracted driving summit

Distracted driving summit

 

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