NJ's cell phone law takes effect

March 1, 2008 8:46:37 PM PST
A new law is in effect in New Jersey this Saturday. If you are driving you'd better not have a cell phone or other electronic gadgets in your hand. The Verizon store in Cherry Hill was crowded with people Saturday who came in to purchase hands-free earpieces for their cell phones.

It was the first day New Jersey's toughened cell phone driving law was being enforced. As of Saturday, using a handheld device while driving is no longer a secondary offense, cited only if stopped for something else. It is now a primary offense, which means police can stop motorists simply, solely for a cell phone violation.

"I think it's a good idea. Too many people not driving well and a lot of times it's because they're talking on the phone or texting and driving so," says Natalie Wychozowycz.

Led signs along Route 38 warn drivers that the fine for violating New Jersey's cell phone law is $100. It's enough to fuel motorists shopping sprees for hand held alternatives like wired or blue tooth wireless earpieces. They start at about $30.

One New Jersey store has seen a 20-percent increase in blue tooth and head set sales this week.

Barbara Wychozowycz tells us, "I think I'm buying an ear set today. Hello. It would be cheaper to buy this than to pay the tickets I'm thinking."

Authorities contend the real issue is safety. There were more than 3,500 cell phone related crashes in New Jersey in 2006... 11 of them fatal.

"We're hoping people will now start putting their cell phones down or at least going to their blue tooth device or some type of earpiece to allow them to focus basically on driving," explains Sgt. Mike Rann of the Cherry Hill Police Department.

New Jersey is now one of 4 states where using a handheld cell phone while driving is enough to get you pulled over. It seems like a wave of the future as this year 21 states are considering some sort of ban on texting while driving.

The new cell phone law doesn't stop at the Delaware River. It applies on all Delaware River Port Authority bridges as well. That includes the Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, Walt Whitman and Commodore Barry.

There's no cell phone ban in Delaware. In Pennsylvania, some local municipalities have banned handheld cells and texting, including Conshohocken, West Conshohocken and Lebanon. There's no statewide ban, but it is being considered.