DIEGNAN BILL TO BAN TELEPHONE USE, TEXTING & E-MAILS BY PUBLIC TRANSIT DRIVERS ADVANCED BY ASSEMBLY PANEL

(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. to prohibit public transportation operators from using a wireless telephone or electronic communication device while their vehicles are moving was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The bill stems from a commuter train crash in California that killed 25 people. Investigators found the operator of the passenger train sent a text message 22 seconds before the collision with an oncoming freight train.

“Some people have become so addicted to their electronic devises that they put others in danger without even thinking about the consequences,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It’s unfortunate that we even have to consider a bill like this, but history tells us it’s a real risk.”

New Jersey already bans individual motorists from using texting and talking on a hand-held cell phones while driving.

Under the bill (A-407), use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device shall include, but would not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone, text messaging or sending an electronic message via a wireless telephone or electronic communication device. An operator of a moving public transportation vehicle would be allowed to use a wireless telephone or electronic communication device only in an emergency or when radio communication failure occurs.

A violation would be considered a disorderly persons offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months imprisonment or both.

“Hopefully this bill would send a strong message that public safety always supersedes any need to send a text message,” Diegnan said. “A text message can wait. Public transportation safety cannot.”

The bill was released by the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. It now goes to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a vote.

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