By Kim Glovas
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey is getting tougher on drivers who talk on a cell phone or text while on the road.
A bill has been signed into law that raises the fines on distracted drivers.
The previous law on driving and talking or texting on a cell phone had lower fines, and made it a “secondary” offense — police had to stop you for something else first.
Now, it’s a “primary” offense, and the fines have been doubled.
“We hope that the driving public sees this as an eye-opener, and takes this as seriously as it is,” says AAA Midatlantic spokesperson
Tracy Noble. “Texting and driving and being distracted while driving is an epidemic that we are seeing on our roadways, and it is not something that should be considered lightly.”
The new law doubles fines for a first offense to a minimum of $200 and a maximum of $400.
A second offense carries a minimum fine of $400 and a maximum of $600 and a minimum of $600 and a maximum of $800 for third or subsequent offenses.
Judges can also suspend a driver’s license for 90 days for anyone convicted of third or subsequent offenses and impose three motor vehicle points.
The US Department of Transportation says that in 2011, the most recent year for this data, more than 3,300 people died in accidents involving districted drivers.
New Jersey is among nine states and the District of Columbia that ban handheld cellphone use for all drivers. It’s also one of 35 states that ban texting for all drivers, along with DC.