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1/17/2006
New Jersey: Tuning a Car Radio Could Cost $100
New Jersey police officers can stop anyone for any reason under a proposed amendment to the state's anti-cell phone law.

John Wisniewski
A bill making its way through the New Jersey state legislature would give police officers the discretion to pull over and issue a $100 ticket for any activity the officer claims is "distracting." Introduced by Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the bill would turn the crime of using a cell phone while driving into a primary offense. Currently, a police officer can only issue a cell phone ticket to a driver if he is pulled over after committing a moving violation.

According to the legislative summary, the bill "specifically prohibits a driver from engaging in any activity not related to the operation of the vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle." That means tuning the radio, drinking a cup of coffee or anything else an officer chooses to write on the ticket can justify a stop. The bill, if passed, is expected to result in thousands of extra citations every year generating significant revenue.

"Much like we did with our seat belt law, upgrading the use of a hand-held cell phone to a primary offense will lead to greater enforcement and compliance," Wisniewski said in a statement. His bill passed in the Assembly Transportation Committee by a vote of 12-0.

Article Excerpt:
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, 211th LEGISLATURE
ASSEMBLY, No. 4461, INTRODUCED DECEMBER 8, 2005
Sponsored by: Assemblyman JOHN S. WISNIEWSKI, District 19 (Middlesex)
As reported by the Assembly Transportation Committee on December 8, 2005, with amendments.

An Act concerning distracted driving and amending P.L. 2003, c.310 and supplementing chapter 4 of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes.

Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

1. Section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) is amended to read as follows:

1. a. (1) The use of a wireless telephone by an operator of a moving motor vehicle on a public road or highway shall be unlawful except when the telephone is a hands-free wireless telephone, provided that its placement does not interfere with the operation of federally required safety equipment and the operator exercises a high degree of caution in the operation of the motor vehicle.

(2) There is a permissive inference that the operator of a motor vehicle who holds a hand-held wireless telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his ear while driving is engaging in a call within the meaning of this section.

b. The operator of a motor vehicle may use a hand-held wireless telephone while driving with one hand on the steering wheel only if:

(1) The operator has reason to fear for his life or safety, or believes that a criminal act may be perpetrated against himself or another person; or

(2) The operator is using the telephone to report to appropriate authorities a fire, a traffic accident, a serious road hazard or medical or hazardous materials emergency, or to report the operator of another motor vehicle who is driving in a reckless, careless or otherwise unsafe manner or who appears to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A hand-held wireless telephone user's telephone records or the testimony or written statements from appropriate authorities receiving such calls shall be deemed sufficient evidence of the existence of all lawful calls made under this paragraph.

As used in this act, "hands-free wireless telephone" means a mobile telephone that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of such mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a conversation without the use of either hand; provided, however, this definition shall not preclude the use of either hand to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the telephone.

"Use" of a wireless telephone shall include, but not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone.

c. [Enforcement of this act by State or local law enforcement officers shall be accomplished only as a secondary action when the operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a violation of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes or another offense.] (DELETED by amendment, P.L. , c. )

d. A person who violates this section shall be fined $100.

e. No motor vehicle points or automobile insurance eligibility points pursuant to section 26 of P.L.1990, c.8 (C.17:33B-14) shall be assessed for this offense.

f. The Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission shall develop and undertake a program to notify and inform the public as to the provisions of this act.

(cf: P.L.2003, c.310, s.1.)

2. (New section) No operator of a motor vehicle shall engage in any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle on any public road or highway. A person who violates this section shall be fined $100 in addition to any penalty imposed for any other moving violation. Any law enforcement officer who issues a summons for a violation of this section shall record, on any summons form issued in connection with the matter, the specific nature of any distracted driving behavior observed.

3. This act shall take effect on the first day of the third month after enactment.


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