Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that texting and driving is dangerous.

And while New Jersey has some of the strictest distracted driving laws in the country, accidents are still on the rise. Enter the new NJ texting while driving law, which took effect on July 27th, 2017 with very little fanfare--but very big implications.

The law uses the trusty old #77 line, which was originally set up to report aggressive or drunk driving. Now, drivers are being asked to call and rat on other drivers when they see them texting while driving. Now how are they then gonna catch up to you, you may ask?

Well this misguided law provides for a letter to be sent to your home, a letter which tells you that someone has reported you. They can't issue a penalty to you based on the fact that someone observed you texting, but in the letter they will delineate the penalties you'll receive if you actually get caught by a policeman.

So basically, the phone call does nothing but educate the texter about the potential fines. I could look that stuff online and save them the stamp, but ok--whatever gets these legislators through the night.

Now for the nitty gritty: the new fines are pretty steep.

First offense: a $400 fine,
Second offense: a $600 fine,
Third offense: an $800 fine plus a license suspension of ninety days, with motor vehicle points on the driver’s license.

The letter also states that if a distracted driver is judged to be the cause of a traffic accident that results in the death or injury of another person, that driver will face criminal charges and possible prison time (That part isn't new).

So let's review:

Aside from doubling the fines, what does this law do? Asks drivers to report other drivers, the result of which is that they receive an informational letter from the state. How is this a deterrent?

The bill, the brainchild of Senators Dick Codey and Fred Madden is one of the dumber ideas to come out of the statehouse but I suppose we should be happy that Codey didn't get his "textalyzer" idea passed: the "textalyzer" would scan your phone to make sure you weren't texting when a cop stops you.

Of course you'd be required by law to give him your cell phone number. Invasive much? That may be next, folks.

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