FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Police in New Jersey are set to crack down on drivers using cellphones and other handheld devices.
As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, hundreds of police departments in the Garden State are focusing in April on enforcing laws aimed at preventing motorists from talking on phones and texting. The Englewood Cliffs Police Department is among 60 agencies to secure a federal grant to fund additional patrols to crack down on distracted driving.
“Officers are going to be doing a hundred hours of this special detail, of distracted drivers with cellphones,” Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi.
Young had no trouble Monday spotting drivers using their phones. One woman who was engaged in conversation didn’t notice the TV camera pointed at her a few feet away.
Hours earlier, another driver on the phone tooled along in Englewood Cliffs as a police officer tried to pull her over. For a mile, the woman showed no apparent reaction to the police lights or even the officer’s amplified plea for her to pull over.
“She kept going,” Officer Mike Krapels said. “I had to get my lights and sirens, and she continued to go. … That’s why we’re trying to crack down as much as possible.”
The push is prompted by a growing body count in distracted driving accidents — most notably the death last summer of 8-month-old Angelie Paredes, who was killed when an allegedly distracted bus driver lost control in West New York, N.J., and struck a light pole, which fell onto the baby’s stroller.
Drivers whom Young spoke with Monday seemed to agree it’s a lesson drivers might have to learn the hard way.
“I’ve seen drivers that they go crazy,” said Rami Shalvi, of Closter, N.J. “They wobble off the road. I’ve seen accidents actually of drivers talking on the phone.”
“It’s dangerous,” said Drew Stone, of the Upper West Side. “I’ve already gotten a few tickets, and I learned my lesson and you move on. But really, it’s a safety thing.”
“Pretty necessary, but we all do it, don’t we?” added Ronnie Shabo, of Fort Lee.
The fine for a first offense in New Jersey is $200, but no points are currently being deducted from drivers’ licenses. Law enforcement officials say they expect penalties to increase in the coming year.
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