A New Jersey Assembly committee approved legislation to prohibit drivers from text-messaging on cell phones and using devices such as Blackberrys to exchange e- mails while behind the wheel.
``We are in an environment where we are getting used to instant communication, much of it from text messages or e-mails, and we use them while we drive,'' Assemblyman David Mayer, a Democrat from Gloucester Township who is sponsoring the measure, said in an interview. ``But to do that you have to take your eyes off the road. And to me, that is dangerous.''
The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee passed the measure today. If approved by the full Assembly and State Senate and signed by Governor Jon Corzine, violators of the law would face a $250 fine.
Sending and receiving messages would be a primary offense, giving police the right to pull over drivers over for infractions. An existing ban on talking on handheld mobile phones while driving is a secondary offense, meaning police can pull over drivers only if they witness another offense committed.
Mayer said driver distraction was the cause of 172 of 767 fatal accidents in 2005. Arizona, Washington, Connecticut and Oregon are also considering similar measures to prevent drivers from sending and receiving text messages when on the road, Mayer said.
Blackberrys are made by Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), based in Waterloo, Ontario.
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