Senator† RICHARD J. CODEY
District 27 (Essex)
†††† Increases fine and imposes license suspension for talking or texting on hand-held device while driving.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
†††† As introduced.
An Act concerning the use of wireless telephones and electronic communication devices in motor vehicles and amending P.L.2003, c.310.†
†††† 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. The use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device 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 or the electronic communication device is used hands-free, 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.† For the purposes of this section, an "electronic communication device" shall not include an amateur radio.†
†††† 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 or electronic communication device shall include, but not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone, text messaging, or sending an electronic message via the wireless telephone or electronic communication device.†
†††† c.†††† (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2007, c.198).†
†††† d.††† A person who violates this section shall be fined $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense.† In addition, for a third or subsequent violation, the person shall forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of 60 days.†
†††† A person who has been convicted of a previous violation of this section need not be charged as a second or subsequent offender in the complaint made against him in order to render him liable to the punishment imposed by this section on a second or subsequent offender, but if the second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense, the court shall treat the second conviction as a first offense for sentencing purposes and if a third offense occurs more than 10 years after the second offense, the court shall treat the third conviction as a second offense for sentencing purposes.
†††† 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.††
†††† g.†††† Whenever this section is used as an alternative offense in a plea agreement to any other offense in Title 39 of the Revised Statutes that would result in the assessment of motor vehicle points, the penalty shall be the same as the penalty for a violation of section 1 of P.L.2000, c.75 (C.39:4-97.2), including the surcharge imposed pursuant to subsection f. of that section, and a conviction under this section shall be considered a conviction under section 1 of P.L.2000, c.75 (C.39:4-97.2) for the purpose of determining subsequent enhanced penalties under that section.† †
(cf:† P.L.2007, c.198, s.1)
†††† 2.††† This act shall take effect on the first day of the fourth month following enactment.†
†††† This bill imposes increased fines for multiple offenses of talking on a hand-held wireless telephone or texting a message with a hand-held wireless electronic communication device while driving.†
†††† Under current law, the fine for this motor vehicle violation is $100.† This bill would increase that fine to $250 for a second offense and to $500 for third or subsequent offenses.†
†††† The bill also would impose a 60-day driverís license suspension for persons convicted of the offense for a third or subsequent time.†
†††† Under the bill, a person convicted of a second offense of driving while talking or texting on a hand-held device would be treated as a first time offender for sentencing purposes if the second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense.† Similarly, a person convicted of a third offense would be treated as a second-time offender for sentencing purposes if the third offense occurs more than ten years after the second offense.†
†††† It is the sponsorís hope that the increased fines and suspension imposed by the bill will act as further deterrents to the very dangerous behavior of using a hand-held device to talk or text while driving.