No one can agree on distracted driving bill

driving

A little over a year after Superstorm Sandy hit the New Jersey coastline, another threat is now approaching. This time, it isn’t coming from the ocean but from inside the halls of the state legislatures in Harrisburg and Trenton. I’m calling it: Superstorm Regulations.

Starting Jan. 1, a gas tax hike will take effect in Pennsylvania — a 9.5-cent increase per gallon for unleaded, according to PennDOT. And with higher gas prices at the pump, that means less people will take the trip down to the shore this summer.

If that wasn’t bad enough news, check out phase two of Superstorm Regulations — a newly proposed distracted driving bill in New Jersey could slap unsuspecting vacationers with a $200 fine.

In New Jersey, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) is a well meaning man on a power-tripping mission.

“Folks pay attention to the road,” Wisneiwski said.

What’s wrong with the current distracted driving law, which includes a ban on using a cell phone? It doesn’t go far enough, he believes.

“Cell phones aren’t the full universe of distracted driving,” Wisneiwski said.

If his bill passed, eating a hamburger, smoking, putting on makeup or any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle could result in being pulled over. This would mean countless tickets for summer vacationers who just want to spend a carefree weekend on the beach.

Of course, Wisneiwski didn’t explain his bill that way, claiming that the examples he’s read in newspapers were “absurd”. But when I asked him to explain an example of distracted driving, he gave me a bizarre, unlikely example of his own.

“If a police officer sees you shaving and drinking a cup of coffee while driving to work,” Wisneiwski said, “you’re distracted and he ought to pull you over.”

The problem with the bill is that distracted driving is a vague, subjective concept. The assemblyman even admitted it was a subjective idea when I talked to him.

Common sense tells us that unless a motorist is swerving over a line or in obvious danger to other drivers, they should not be pulled over.

Steve Carrellas, a New Jersey spokesperson for the National Motorist Association, said the newly proposed law in New Jersey is not needed.

“The problem with the bill is it goes after certain actions that could be interpreted as careless driving,” Carrellas said. “Just because someone is looking at a map or changing a CD and a police officer observes them, it is not clear this is unsafe driving.”

Wisneiwski called Carrellas out for his comments.

“The NMA representative says you should be able to read a map and drive. If I’m driving 60 mph and reading, I’m a danger,” Wisneiwski said. “It’s not the NMA, it’s the association to minimize any violations.”

Carrella said that his organization aims to protect motorists from unneeded driving regulations. He said that like the proposed bill, the cell phone law also falls in to that category.

“The cell phone bill overemphasizes a particular action,” Carrella said. “It distracts from the overall problem.”

Wisneiwski said that he was frustrated by the “don’t tell us how to drive,” libertarian attitude.

If we needed any more proof the bill was too vague — both of these men know the driving laws like the back of their hands and even they can’t agree on what “distracted driving” is. How will police officers and drivers ever agree? But Carrellas isn’t too worried. He laughed off the assemblyman’s previous attempts with a similar bill, known several years ago as the “ham sandwich bill.” Carrellas said he believed it wouldn’t pass. Wisneiwski disagreed.

“I’d like to borrow his crystal ball,” Wisneiwski said.

I don’t have a crystal ball either, but for the sake of the shore and vacationers, let’s hope this bill doesn’t pass. The gas tax hike will do enough economic damage for one summer.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD: Suspect dead after two U.S. Marshals, cop…

A suspected sex offender died during a shootout inside a West Village smoke shop that left two U.S. Marshals and an NYPD detective wounded, officials said.

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.

Food

Zagat releases '30 Under 30' list

Zagat releases a list of the people changing the food and drink industry across the country.