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P.O. Box 160
Trenton, NJ
Contact: Mike Horan
Cathleen Lewis
Kevin Cranston
RELEASE: February 28, 2008


MVC and Partners Urge Motorists to “Put the Phone Down”
Harrington Kicks Off Public Awareness Campaign for New Law
– Continuing efforts to stress driver responsibility and highway safety, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) Chief Administrator Sharon A. Harrington today kicked off its Put the Phone Down public awareness campaign aimed at reminding the state’s motorists of a new law that makes talking on a hand-held cell phone or texting while driving a primary motor vehicle offense.

Joined by New Jersey Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer, State Police Troop Commander Matthew Walker and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester County) at the New Jersey Turnpike’s Joyce Kilmer Service Area, Harrington called on drivers to limit their distractions and applauded the new cell phone law, which will go into effect Saturday, March 1. Harrington revealed that the MVC will utilize several different outlets during its Put the Phone Down campaign to spread the message to all New Jersey motorists not to talk on a hand-held cell phone or engage in text messaging while driving.

“When behind the wheel, motorists should only be concerned about the road ahead and the vehicles around them. Talking on a hand-held cell phone or sending a text message is an unnecessary distraction that prevents an individual from safely operating his or her vehicle.” Harrington said. “With the help of our partners in safety, we want to make sure all of the state’s motorists are aware of the new law and the consequences for violating it. The more motorists we can get to put down their cell phones, the safer our roads will be.”

The Put the Phone Down campaign touts a straight-forward message targeting driver distraction and will be delivered via a number of outlets, including:

  • Posters at rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.
  • Tent cards at all MVC agencies and regional service centers.
  • Tollbooth signs on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.
  • Movie screen advertisements.
  • Reminder messages on the Department of Transportation’s digital highway signs and on the MVC’s Web site, www.njmvc.gov.

“We want the Put the Phone Down message to reach as many people as possible,” Harrington added. “Drivers talking and text messaging on cell phones has played a role in far too many accidents and it needs to stop. This new law is designed to deter motorists away from distracted driving and it’s our responsibility to publicize the message over and over again.”

Sponsored by Senate President Richard Codey, Senate Bill 1099 was signed into law by Governor Jon S. Corzine on November 2, 2007. The law makes it a primary offense for motorists to talk on or text message with a hand-held wireless telephone or electronic communication device while driving. New Jersey is the fourth state to make using a hand-held cell phone while driving a primary offense and the second to ban text messaging while driving.

The new law is a stricter version of the cell phone law passed in 2003. The old law made it a “secondary offense” to use only a hand-held cell phone while driving. As a “secondary offense,” a motorist could only be cited for being in violation of the cell phone law if they were stopped by law enforcement for another motor vehicle violation. 

As a “primary offense,” a motorist can be stopped and cited by law enforcement solely for talking on a hand-held cell phone or text messaging.

The fine for violating the new cell phone law will be $100, revised from the previous fine of no less than $100 or more than $250. Unchanged from the old law, violating the new cell phone provisions will carry no motor vehicle points.

Added Moriarty, one of the primary sponsors of the bill: “This new law is very important for the safety of New Jersey drivers. While electronic devices make our lives easier, they pose a huge threat when used while driving. They can be very distracting and can cause a driver to lose their focus and cause an accident. We hope that this new law will encourage drivers to limit their use of electronic devices while driving and always use a hands-free device when it is necessary for them to talk and drive.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration’s Web site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov, “research shows that driving while using a cell phone can pose a serious cognitive distraction and degrade driver performance.” The NHTSA estimates that driver distraction from all sources, including the use of cell phones and electronic communication devices, contributes to 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.   

“A driver’s attention should be focused solely on driving, period,” stated Fischer. “Any conversation on a cell phone, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, is distracting and can instantly take a driver’s mind and eyes off the road, creating a potentially deadly situation. For the safety of all New Jersey motorists, hang up, put the phone down and drive.”

Fischer added that all New Jersey business leaders are urged to reinforce this message with their employees, especially those who travel our roadways as part of their work day. Safety must be a motorist’s first and only priority when behind the wheel.

Put the Phone Down [pdf-English]
Put the Phone Down [jpg-English]
Put the Phone Down [pdf-Spanish]
Put the Phone Down [jpg-Spanish]