I Laughed When My Mother Warned Me About DWC in NJ

By DWC, I mean “driving while conversing.” In New Jersey, you see, talking on a non-hands-free cell phone while driving an automobile is a ticketable offense. Apparently, South Kingstown Senator V. Susan Sosnowski thinks that’s a swell idea:

Citing the many dangers associated with talking on a cell phone while driving, Senator V. Susan Sosnowski has again introduced legislation that would prohibit drivers from using a non-hands-free cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.
“Talking on a cell phone while driving is just plain dangerous, and is the cause of thousands of car accidents a year,” said Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown). “Unless we prohibit this practice, innocent people will continue to be injured or killed on our roadways.”
The bill (2007 – S0094) would make exceptions for public safety personnel, such as firefighters, police officers and ambulance operators. Also, any motorist who needs to make an emergency phone call to a 911 operator, hospital, physician’s office or health clinic, fire department, police department or ambulance company would be allowed to do so under Senator Sosnowski’s legislation.
Any individual charged with using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle could be fined up to $100. However, the fine will be waived for a first time violator if he or she obtains a hands-free accessory for the phone.

I haven’t time to look into the vaguely referenced “recent University of Utah study” that represents the sole evidence that such a law is needed, but I wonder: How much have accidents increased since the widespread use of cell phones? And how much will forbidding actual conversations help when such things as dialing are not covered by the law?
I also wonder whether I’ll have to go to the Supreme Court to find out whether I can check my email on the phone. On the one hand, the legislation (PDF) provides:

An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a hand-held mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while such vehicle is in motion is presumed to be engaging in a call within the meaning of this section.

On the other hand, the proposed language includes this catch-all:

Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall engage in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such vehicle on any highway.

So much for disciplining the kids to “pipe down back there.”
Readers may notice that this post is the first under the brand new topic “Under the Government’s Wing,” which I’ve increasingly desired, now that I’m receiving RI state legislature press releases.

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17 years ago

What next, banning the use of any ipod, phone or other distracting gizmo when crossing the street? Don’t laugh, it’s on the way – Today, Fox news reported that Senator Carl Kruger (D-NY) introduced legislation to do just that.
Doesn’t all this mommy-state legislation interfere with Darwin’s theory of evolution?

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