FaceTiming while driving is legal in NJ — but for how long?
A Sussex County school driver who lost her route after being caught chatting on FaceTime while driving a student has sparked debate over whether video app usage by drivers should be banned in New Jersey.
Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, D-Hudson, believes it does and he's drafting legislation.
The lawmaker, who co-sponsored a stringent distracted driving measure that failed to pass in 2016, said video streaming by drivers is "insanity" and it's a loophole that needs to be closed. Chiaravalloti said that as a father of three, the school driver's story made him angry. He said the goal is not to penalize drivers, but to change behavior, as "distracted driving is a killer."
Others contend that police already have enough tools to nab unsafe drivers. Steve Carrellas, director of government and public affairs for the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorists Association, said drivers can be ticketed for careless or reckless driving. He said the "unsafe outcome" of actions, not the specific actions themselves, should be the focus.
Carrellas said that hands-free FaceTime chatting is not much different than speaking to passengers in a vehicle.
"What’s the difference between people who look over every once in a while to the passenger they’re talking to?"
According to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, more than 804,000 crashes from 2011 to 2015 in New Jersey involved a distracted driver.
Following the recent Sussex County incident, the school van driver was ticketed under an existing law against using a cell phone while transporting kids and was taken off her route.
High Point schools Superintendent Scott Ripley said the district barred the driver from future rides “as soon as we were made aware of the incident."
Chiaravalloti said he expects to introduce a bill by early March.
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