LIVINGSTON, NJ – July 1 marked the start of an increased penalty for those drivers in New Jersey who are caught texting while driving. Governor Christie signed these increases into law last year to “send a message” as former Governor and current state Senator Richard Codey said.

“The Livingston Township Police Department takes all motor vehicle violations very seriously,” said Chief Craig Handschuch. “Our Officers will be aggressively enforcing the new texting and driving law to ensure the safety of our motorists and pedestrians in Livingston. One significant amendment to the law is that the use of any hand-held device in a motor vehicle even if the vehicle is stopped at a traffic signal or is stopped for traffic is prohibited.”

For the first penalty a fine between $200 and $400 will be given rather than a $100 penalty. The second offense will include between a $400 and $600 fine while the third penalty may result in up to an $800 fine and the possibility of a suspended license. “We’ve had enough and the people who text and talk on their handheld cell phones are the new drunk drivers in terms of severity and danger in what they create on the roads,” said Codey.

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“Although the fines and penalties for texting or talking while operating your vehicle have significantly increased, please remember that you cannot compare monetary fines to an unnecessary injury or death to yourself or another person. I urge all motorists to abide by all of the traffic safety laws, and to help keep our citizens off our town and state safe,” said Handschuch.

Livingston Mayor Michael Rieber agrees, “I’m glad they’re doing it – it’s a proven danger. With a few seconds looking down you can drive the length of a football field and that is very dangerous behind the wheel.”

New Jersey Police are cracking down on texting and driving. There has not been a way to report those individuals texting while driving besides calling them in. However, “one should not be using their phone while driving to report or this will increase danger on the road rather than decrease the distraction of drivers,” said Rieber.

For now, the Police Department is encouraging people not to use their phone while on the road and to avoid these fines and possible danger. They are also working with local youths to create awareness of the dangers.

 “The Livingston Community Policing Unit assists with the Livingston High School Drivers Education Program, and discusses the extreme dangers of texting or using a hand-held device while driving. The students that receive their permit or graduated driver’s license ‘GDL,’ learn that they are not allowed to use any hand-held device, even hands free ones, during their probationary period,” said Community Policing & Dare Unit Coordinator Officer Gary Mankowitz.

He added, “The Community Policing Unit is very pleased to see that the laws have become stricter and is not only for new drivers. It doesn't matter how experienced a driver is, or how many years a person has been driving for, a distracted driver can cause devastating results that could be tragic.”