TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Nearly a year after Tropical Storm Irene made landfall and flooded parts of New Jersey, one lawmaker is working to put stricter penalties on drivers who ignore road closure signs.

State Senator Kip Bateman from Somerville said when drivers don’t follow the road closure signs, they put themselves and first responders at risk, while also diverting attention from the main incident.

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WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reports

“It ties up law enforcement when they’re trying to help people who really need their services,” Bateman told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.

Dozens of water rescues had to be performed in Somerset County in the aftermath of Irene.

“What happens many times is that the individuals end up getting stuck and then they’ve got to get a tow truck and it’s really a real inconvenience to law enforcement especially when they’re trying to deal with a tragedy such as a hurricane,” Bateman said.

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The bill sponsored by Bateman would increase the fine from $100 to $250 and may require drivers to pay for the cost of their rescue.

“I think that [if] you hit people in the pocketbook, it’s gonna make them think twice about going around a road closure, a barricade.”

Bateman said the bill is meant to keep people safe.

“People think it’s not going to happen to them, that they can get around, that they have the right type of vehicle and they don’t realize sometimes that the water is much deeper than it looks,” Bateman said.

The bill has been stalled in committee but Bateman said he hopes to move it forward in the fall.

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Do you think there should be a greater penalty for going through road closures in the Garden State? Share your thoughts below…