By Michelle Durham

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — A New Jersey state senate committee has voted to substantially increase the fines and punishment for drivers who talk and text on a handheld cell phone while driving.

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The bill now is bound for a future budget committee hearing before facing a vote before the full Senate.

The measure was sponsored by state senator Richard Codey, who addressed the panel:

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“Right now it’s a $100 fine, and that’s a slap on the wrist,” he said, “and what we have to do is a slap in the face.  And this bill does exactly that.  All of us in this room has driven past a driver who’s doing exactly what we are talking about.  And they are all over the road.  They are angry and yelling into their cell phone.”

That fine for a first offense would be increased to $200; $400 for the second; and for the third or subsequent offenses, $600, three license points, and possible license suspension.

An amendment suggested by Sen. Fred Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester) was added: fines would be collected by the court and allocated to the chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission for use in a public education program on the dangers of talking or texting while driving.

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