Law Change Allows Police To Stop Drivers Who Use Hand-Held Phones

STATE—Motorists traveling the roadways throughout the State of New Jersey should be aware of a change in the law that will take affect this Saturday, March 1. Starting Saturday, police will be able to pull over drivers who use their cell phones or other wireless handheld communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. Previously, officers had to find another violation to stop the vehicle to be able to enforce the wireless phone ban. Drivers will still be able to use hand-free phone accessories to make use of their phones while driving.“Our County Police Department will be joining with law enforcement agencies statewide in enforcing this new law,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Angel G. Estrada. “Ensuring that motorists who use our roadways do so in a safe and courteous manner has always been of great importance. This new law will help drivers give full attention to what is happening around them, creating a much safer trip for all.”Not everyone is happy with the new change to the law. “It’s really going after the people who use cell phones occasionally and don’t present a threat,” said Steve Carrellas, state coordinator for the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorist Association. “Ideally, what you want to go after are people who are constantly on the phone. Since they can’t differentiate, we’re stuck with this blanket ban. People are going to end up resenting it because a lot of people use the phone occasionally in the car.”The operator of a motor vehicle may use a hand-held wireless telephone while driving with one hand on the steering wheel only if the operator has reason to fear for his/her life or safety, or believes that a criminal act may be perpetrated against him/her or another person, The operator may also use the device to report to appropriate authorities a fire; traffic crash; serious road hazard; medical or hazardous material emergency; another motorist who is driving in a reckless, careless or otherwise unsafe manner or who appears to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.The fine for violating this statute is $100. No points will be assessed for the offense.Five states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting cell-phone use without hands-free devices by drivers. Only New Jersey and Washington ban text messaging while driving.

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