New Jersey hates distracted driving. Many would say this is because of how crowded the roadways are and how unsafe distracted driving is to other drivers, but I believe it is a combination of that and the ability to generate revenue with tickets. Let’s examine.
New Jersey already has a ban on cell phone use. Using a cell phone while driving is a primary offense, meaning you can be pulled over solely for using your phone. In many states it is secondary, meaning you have to be on your phone and then speeding, or swerving or any number of other violations that could occur while using said phone in order for you to incur the wrath-of-cop for the use of that iPhone. NJ decided after roughly 3 years of hands-free cell-phone use laws that the treatment of it as a secondary violation was useless, they upped it to an equally useless primary offense.
I say useless because it is only as good as the police who enforce it. And though they may, I still see more than a few drivers driving around with electronic warts stuck to their faces. Comically, many of these symbionts are in vehicles that come standard with Bluetooth hands-free built-in, but I digress.
On top of this primary offense for cell-phone use, NJ also has the run of the mill laws about driving safely. So you would assume between all of these laws, we would be covered. Of course not.
Enter A1908, a new bill that is different than the prior bills because it is generically worded in section 2.
Section 1 is the law previously discussed, but section 2 is much more sinister.
An operator of a moving motor vehicle shall not 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 a public road or highway.
b. A person who violates this section shall be fined:
(1) for a first offense, not less than $200 or more than $400;
(2) for a second offense, not less than $400 or more than $600; and
(3) for a third or subsequent offense, not less than $600 or more than $800.
For a third or subsequent violation, the court, in its discretion, may order the person to forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of 90 days. In addition, a person convicted of a third or subsequent violation shall be assessed three motor vehicle penalty points pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1982, c.43 (C.39:5-30.5).
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 the person in order to render the person 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.
The fear here is that you could be ticketed for driving-while-coffee, as drinking coffee is not integral to the operation of the vehicle, and over a 19-year time period get dinged twice more and lose your license for three months.
Is it a bad law? It’s not a bad idea, but it is a terrible law.
The conversation in the Garden State has become about coffee and apparently that bothers Dumbass Legistlator #478930, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, who was quoted on NJ.com as saying, “this all became about coffee” when “it’s a conversation that brings awareness (to distracted driving), and that’s what’s important. Police officers...are not going to look for you because you have a cup of coffee.”
Sure, except we have distracted laws already, or laws that address the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle. So what is this law really? The wording gives an officer carte blanche to go after a driver for anything they see as non-essential to the driving process. If an officer testifies that a driver was doing something like fiddling with a radio, taking a bite of hamburger, or anything else, that is a very difficult accusation to disprove. Essentially, you may as well hand over the $200+ and go on your way.
Of course, the collective hive of dumbass legislators have pulled all of the quotables they can to make this sound like it is about your safety. For instance, Sheila Oliver pulled her head out of her anal cavity long enough to emit these words of concern from her pie-hole: “We are seeing a significant increase an increase in pedestrian deaths” in New Jersey. Which sounds like reasonable concern except for the fact that it does not examine a cause, or detail how extracting potentially large amounts of money from drivers for sipping bottled water while on the highway will stop little Johnnie from being run over while walking home from the park.
Not to be outdone for stupid utterances, potential future candidate for Overlord of NJ Denizens, John Wisniewski, told the Star Ledger “the goal is not to penalize coffee drinkers. Instead, it’s meant to stop people from using electronic devices or reading newspapers in the driver’s seat and to make people more aware of distracted driving.” Meaning, he should be forced to sit out the gubernatorial election because he can’t read section 1 of a law already on the books before desiring to tack on a second section that does not address anything in his quote that wasn’t already addressed legally.
Yep, it’s a great group of winners assembled here in NJ. I’m just happy to give my ridiculously high taxes to them so they can continue their important 4-months of hard working legislating my behavior.
This is one of 3 reasons I am happy to commute on a train. There are 238 reasons I don’t like train commuting, but they are minor compared to the three reasons I do.