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New Jersey mulls driver text ban

Bigger fines, more powers for the coppers

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Authorities in New Jersey are considering making it an offence to send text messages while driving.

Under existing state laws, it is an offence to use a mobile phone while using the highway, but police may only pull someone over if they are breaking another road rule.

The proposed laws would allow police to stop someone just for using their phone, and offenders would be liable for a fine of between $100 and $250. Other states are understood to be considering similar measures.

Democratic Assemblyman Paul Moriarty said the bill had been drafted following research that found one in five drivers was happily crafting SMSs while motoring along the state's highways. Among the 18to 24 age group, the figure rises to one in three, according to the survey which was carried out by Nationwide Insurance.

Moriarty said the habit was "extremely dangerous".

He told Reuters: "It requires you to completely take your eyes off the road. I see people driving down the street using both their thumbs to send a text message, and I can only imagine they are steering with their knees."

The bill is expected to be debated in May or June, before passing to the full Assembly and the Senate, where is already has considerable support.

Here in Blighty it became illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in December 2003. From 2007, the rules changed, and those caught breaking the law now face a larger fine and penalty points on their licence. ®

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