Tougher N.J. penalties for drivers using hand-held phones await Christie OK

The New Jersey Assembly has given final legislative approval to a measure that increases the penalties for texting or talking on a handheld phone while driving.

The current penalty of a $100 fine plus court costs is not enough to change drivers’ behavior so it’s time to get tougher, said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano.

“Your first time in court you’re just going to pay an increased fine between $200 and $400,” she said. “The second time in court, you’re going to pay an increased fine of $400 to $600. But the third and subsequent fines is where we’re really going to get serious.”

Third-time offenders face fines up to $800 and three points on their license. Judges would have the discretion to suspend their license for 90 days.

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The Senate has already passed the measure. It’s now up to Gov. Chris Christie to decide whether to sign it into law.

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