(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Wisniewski, Vincent Prieto, Paul Moriarty and Herb Conaway, Jr. to erect signage warning motorists that text messaging while driving is prohibited under state law received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill, designated “Nikki’s Law”, is named after Nikki Kellenyi, an 18-year old National Honor Society for Business student and champion equestrian from Washington Township, NJ who tragically died in an automobile accident in 2012.
“The typical text message takes 4.6 seconds – that would be the equivalent of driving a car blind at 55 mph the entire length of a football field,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), who chairs the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities. “A quick look away while driving may seem minor, but it can be fatal. This bill honors Nikki’s memory and will hopefully help save others by reminding drivers that current state law prohibits texting while driving.”
The bill (A-3873/S-2406) requires the Commissioner of Transportation, in consultation with the Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety, to erect appropriate signage and use variable message signs, informing motorists that text messaging and sending electronic messages via wireless telephone or electronic communication device while driving is prohibited under state law. The bill would take effect immediately.
“Many people fail to realize the great risk they take when they look away from the road for even just a few seconds to respond or send a text message,” said Prieto (D- Bergen/Hudson). “Some may not even be aware that under state law texting while driving is a crime. Having signage reminding drivers that texting while driving is illegal will hopefully help curb this dangerous behavior.”
“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. Your life is not worth a text message,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “We passed a law prohibiting this behavior. Erecting signage reminding motorists that texting is not only dangerous, but illegal is the next logical step.”
“Texting while driving does not only endanger the driver, but the driver’s passengers and other motorists on the road,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “There is no text message worth dying for. Seeing signage on the road pushing the message that texting while driving is illegal will hopefully make drivers think twice about taking their eyes off the road to respond to a text on their phone.”
The bill was approved 74-0 by the Assembly in March, and 39-0 by the Senate on Thursday.