N.J. considers crackdown on distracted drivers but hasn’t specified distractions it will outlaw



Legislation under consideration in New Jersey would give police the discretion to issue tickets for distracted driving, but it doesn’t specify what distractions would be prohibited.

Catheen Lewis with AAA New Jersey told an Assembly committee that using cellphones is a major distraction that can cause accidents.

Talking on a phone, even if it’s hands-free, reduces the brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, she said.

“So every time you get in your car and you get on the phone, more than a third of your brain capacity that’s supposed to be focused on the road is now focused on that conversation,” Lewis said. “You increase your crash risk by two to four times every time you engage in that phone conversation.”

Deaths and injuries could be prevented by banning all non-emergency use of cellphones in vehicles, according to Robert Molloy of the National Transportation Safety Board

“The areas that are focused on driving in the brain get less activation because of the distraction from that cellphone call,” he said. “When you look at eye gaze when you’re talking on the cellphone, your talking, your conversation affects your gaze pattern and that limits the amount of information you know what’s around you.”

Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski said he doubts lawmakers will take up Molloy’s recommendation.

“The question is, is it practical in a political and legislative context to actually go that far,” he said.

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