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Stronger Cell Phone Penalities Coming? [AUDIO]

Driver on Cell Phone
Flickr User Stefan Kloo

A Jersey lawmaker wants to toughen the penalties for using a hand-held cell phone while driving – especially in cases where there’s a serious injury or a fatal accident.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty says his legislation “would make is so that if you were in an accident and you killed somebody or seriously injured them – that a prosecutor could prosecute you for vehicular homicide or assault by auto.”

He says “we have had several deaths and serious injuries in this state where the person was texting or surfing the web or looking at cell phone GPS system – and we currently don’t have the tools to bring these people to court and try them for vehicular homicide…in many cases they just receive traffic citations.”

Moriarty adds “if those people make that conscious decision to stop looking at the road – and drift across the road and hit someone head on and that person dies- they ought to be held accountable.”

He points out there have been several studies done in recent years that show “texting while driving is even more dangerous – one study said 10 times more dangerous – than driving drunk – because you are not looking at the road whatsoever…and we have had instances where people have been texting while driving – not watching the road – and they’ve killed people – and they get a traffic ticket – that’s not right.”

The measure would also bump up fines for texting or talking on a hand held phone “from a hundred dollars to two hundred dollars for the first offense – and 400 dollars for a second offense, and 600 dollars for a third or subsequent offense…people are doing all sorts of things with their cell phones while driving – from twitter to Facebook to texting to GPS systems and surfing the web- lots of these features can be entertaining but they can also be deadly when you use them behind the wheel….this bill I hope will deter people from using their phones while on the road, and spare families from tragedies – like the tragedies we’ve seen around the state.”

He says vehicular homicide “is generally a crime of the second degree- it’s punishable by imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and a fine of up to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars or both.”

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