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Assembly members advance penalties for electronic device use when driving

DIEGNAN, RODRIGUEZ & COUGHLIN BILL TO BAN TELEPHONE USE, TEXTING & E-MAILS BY PUBLIC TRANSIT DRIVERS ADVANCED BY SENATE PANEL
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Caridad Rodriguez and Craig J. Coughlin  to prohibit public transportation operators from using a wireless telephone or electronic communication device while their vehicles are moving was advanced Monday by a Senate panel.

The bill – approved 75-0 by the Assembly in February – stems from a commuter train crash in California that killed 25 people. Investigators found the operator of the passenger train sent a text message 22 seconds before the collision with an oncoming freight train.

“Some people have become so addicted to their electronic devises that they put others in danger without even thinking about the consequences,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It’s unfortunate that we even have to consider a bill like this, but history tells us it’s a real risk.”

“This is common sense, but unfortunately we often have to legislate common sense to ensure public safety,” said Rodriguez (D-Hudson). “The last thing we want to see is a tragedy in New Jersey like the one in California that cost so many so much, yet could have been avoided.”

“This is a public safety initiative,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “All drivers, no matter their vehicle, need to be paying full attention to their surroundings.”

New Jersey already bans individual motorists from using texting and talking on a hand-held cell phones while driving.

Under the bill (A-407), use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device shall include, but would not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone, text messaging or sending an electronic message via a wireless telephone or electronic communication device.

An operator of a moving public transportation vehicle would be allowed to use a wireless telephone or electronic communication device only in an emergency or when radio communication failure occurs.

A violation would be considered a disorderly persons offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months imprisonment or both.

“Hopefully this bill would send a strong message that public safety always supersedes any need to send a text message,” Diegnan said. “A text message can wait. Public transportation safety cannot.”

The bill was advanced by the Senate Transportation Committee.

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