On December 20, 2010 by a vote of 30-7, the State Senate approved a bill that would dramatically increase fines and penalties for drivers caught talking or texting on a hand-held cell phone. One year and two days later, the Senate sponsor of the measure wants to know why the Assembly hasn't passed the legislation yet.

State Senator and former Governor Dick Codey is calling for action on legislation he has sponsored that would increase penalties for using a cell phone while driving. Codey's call for action comes a week after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving.

Codey points out, "My bill doesn't go quite that far (but) there is now no question that texting and the use of handheld cell phones while driving are more dangerous than being intoxicated while behind the wheel. We had an all out, full-fledged crusade to stop drunk driving, and rightfully so, but now it is time we put the same kind of effort into stopping texting and using a handheld cell phone while driving."

Under Codey's measure a graduated penalty structure would be established for repeat offenders who violate the state's hands-free cell phone law more than once in a ten-year period - a motor vehicle violation that, under current law, carries a $100 fine for first and subsequent offenses.

Codey says, "My bill increases those fines, first fine, $250, second $450, third $650 and with the third violation you're eligible to have your license suspended……..I hope that the Assembly can move on this bill before the current Legislative session is over and that Governor Christie will sign it as soon as it lands on his desk. It has been a year since it passed in the Senate and any further delay will only cause more risk for people on the road."

The Assembly has not yet announced its agendas for January 5th or 9th which are its final two sessions days before the new legislature is sworn in.

Codey cites a report by Car and Driver Magazine that has shown how long it takes to hit the brake when sober (.54 seconds), drunk (add four feet), reading an e-mail (add 36 feet) and sending a text message (add 70 feet). A study by the Transport Research Laboratory showed that reaction times were 35% worse for drivers sending a text message, as opposed to 12% worse for those at the legal limit of intoxication and 21% worse for those under the influence of cannabis.

A study prepared by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that text messaging took drivers' focus away for 4.6 seconds, and a Clemson University simulator study found that text messaging and using an iPod caused drivers to leave their lanes ten percent more often.