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A Ticket for Eating or Smoking at the Wheel?

Distractions are one of the main causes of auto accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 3,328 people were killed in distraction-related auto accidents in 2012.

It is already illegal to talk on a cellphone or text while driving in New Jersey. Now a legislative proposal would expand the list of illegal activities for New Jersey drivers, potentially making it a violation to put on makeup, eat or smoke behind the wheel.

According to CBS New York, the New Jersey State Assembly Transportation Committee advanced the bill recently. Introduced by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the bill would encompass any behaviors that aren’t related to the operation of a vehicle.

Critics say the bill is too vague, not listing what constitutes a distraction and instead simply saying activities “unrelated” to the vehicle operation would be punishable.

A first offense would carry a fine between $200 and $400. A second offense would range from $400 to $600, and further violations would carry a fine of $600 to $800.

What is Distracted Driving?

Some worry that the bill would criminalize activities such as adjusting the radio or looking at a map. A representative from the National Motorists’ Association says the definition of distracted driving needs to be clearer.

It stands to reason that phones aren’t the only potentially dangerous distraction behind the wheel. You may have seen people reading, doing their makeup, fixing their hair, eating, or even shaving while moving through traffic. Any one of these behaviors could be as distracting as texting while driving or surfing the Internet.

Pedestrian, Cyclist Deaths

Composing or even reading a text message is said to require an average of 4.6 seconds. These valuable seconds are equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph. A whole lot can happen in this relatively short amount of time.

A recent study illustrates the need for tough distracted driving laws. It suggests the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by distracted drivers rose 50% from 2005 to 2010. The researchers call distracted driving a “public health threat.”

The proposed law in New Jersey may seem like overkill, especially for people who finish up their morning routines or eat their breakfast behind the wheel.

When we are on the road, we owe it to ourselves and everyone else to pay attention. When we are distracted by our phones, our food, or our makeup, we aren’t only putting ourselves at risk but we are putting everyone else’s life on the line as well.