Don't drink and drive.
It's the cardinal rule of getting behind the wheel, and we all know it -- but for folks living in New Jersey, the old cautionary adage is expanding its definition of “drinking” to include nonalcoholic beverages.
A new bill has been introduced that would impose fines and even potential license suspensions for drivers who are caught eating, drinking, reading/using electronic devices, or grooming while driving a car.
According to NJ.com, violators of the new bill could face a $200 to $400 fine for their first offense, followed by a $400 to $600 fine for a second offense. Subsequent offenses could cost drinking-drivers up to $600 to $800, plus up to a 90-day license suspension (not to mention points on their license).
But don’t think the sponsors of the bill are just out to get you -- Democratic Assemblymen John Wisniewski of Middlesex and Democrat Nicholas Chiaravalloti of Hudson say that the bill is modeled after a similar one in Maine, and strives to educate drivers to make safer choices.
"The issue is that we need to try, in every way, to discourage distracted driving; it's dangerous," Wisniewski said. "Education and enforcement can change the attitudes of people.”
Arnold Anderson, the Essex County Community Traffic Safety Program coordinator, agreed, telling NJ.com: "You've got to get people out of the mindset of multitasking. You can't multitask. We are so far away from the mindset of ... just drive.”
Those who disagree with the new bill argue that the bill would be hard to enforce.
"This proposed distracted driving law is not needed, since three statutes can be used when a distraction causes unsafe actions, like swerving or crossing a line,” said Steve Carrellas, policy and government affairs director for the National Motorists Association state chapter. "There is unsafe driving, careless driving and reckless driving.”
According to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, New Jersey currently has laws in place banning the use of cellular devices while driving. It does not currently have prohibitions in place for other distracted behavior -- like grooming or eating while driving.