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Only in New Jersey: Bill would ban motorists from drinking coffee and driving

Published: August 8, 2016
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Source: USA Today

New Jersey already draws ire for not letting drivers pump their own gas. But the state might ban them from having a cup of coffee behind the wheel too.

A bill under consideration in the state Legislature calls to prohibit “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.” That means no cup of coffee for those sitting in traffic, no munching on that breakfast burrito, no time to groom. (No, the law does not target coffee verbatim.)  

The bill is meant to target distracted driving, which plays a role in thousands of fatal crashes in the state each year. At least 3,179 fatal crashes were attributed to distracted driving in 2014, according to the state’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety website. Distracted driving played a role in nearly 800,000 crashes between 2010 and 2014.

“The issue is that we need to try, in every way, to discourage distracted driving, it’s dangerous,” Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat in Central Jersey, who sponsored the bill, told The Star-Ledger. “Education and enforcement can change the attitudes of people.”

Wisniewski and two other sponsors, Assemblymen Nicholas Chiaravalloti  Patrick Diegnan, said the legislation was modeled after a law in Maine passed in 2009 thatoutlawed distracted driving altogether.

So, the penalty for sneaking a bite of your ham sandwich? Between $200 and $400 for the first offense, $400 to $600 for the second and $600 to $800 for the third, as well as a 90-day license suspension and points on the license.

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