A bipartisan measure signed into law by Governor Chris Christie makes it a bigger risk for motorists who choose to use a cell phone while driving.

New Jersey has created tougher penalties for motorists who use a handheld cell phone while driving. (Flickr User Jim Legans, Jr.)

The law goes into effect 13 months from now.

Motorists caught talking on a handheld device or texting will face a minimum $200 fine for a first offense, and a maximum of $400. A second offense could cost the driver $600, and third or subsequent offenses have a maximum fine of $800.

In its current form, cell phone use behind the wheel equals a fine of $100.

Anyone convicted of more than two offenses would also be subject to a 90-day driver's license suspension.

"It's our hope that the increased fines and suspensions imposed by this law will act as a further deterrent to these dangerous habits," said Assembly Democrat L. Grace Spencer.

"When a person is illegally using a cell phone or texting, they are distracted and pose a serious risk to other drivers and pedestrians," added Deputy Republican Whip Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz.

The new law also requires the Motor Vehicle Commission to develop a public education program on this offense. Half of the fines collected would go to the MVC for the program.