TRENTON – The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee approved a bill that would take aim at the increasing problem of laser pointers being pointed at aircraft by a 3-2 vote on Monday.
Laser incident reports have increased steadily since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots. The FBI and New Jersey State Police recently re-emphasized the dangers of pointing laser pointers at aircraft.
As the Star-Ledger reported, there were 269 reported laser “strikes” in New Jersey airspace last year, compared to just four in 2007. Nationwide, there have been 2,376 this year through Sept. 13, most of which occurred at night and when planes were at low altitudes.
“These incidents raise serious passenger safety concerns,” said Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland), a sponsor of the bill. “They’re unnecessary and we can help quell them with this simple bill to reduce the power of these laser pointers. Laser pointers can serve a legitimate need in the classroom and in business settings, but clearly in those cases we don’t need super-powered laser pointers that can put people at risk.”
Pointing lasers at aircraft can blind pilots and permanently damage their eyesight. Often times, pilots had to relinquish control of their aircraft to another pilot. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called the laser incidents “an unacceptable risk to passenger safety.”
Albano’s bill would prohibit the sale of laser pointers that exceed one milliwatt in output power.
Current federal regulations allow for the sale of laser pointers that have an output power of up to five milliwatts.
A person who violates the provisions of this bill shall be subject to a penalty of not more than $500 for the first offense and not more than $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
“This is common sense step toward improved safety for everyone,” Albano said. “We don’t want to see a tragedy because of a laser pointer, so this is the right thing to do.”
The bill was released 3-2 by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.