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New Jersey to crack down on texting while driving?

Are New Jersey drivers getting the message that texting while behind the wheel can cause car accidents? Lawmakers gathered in Trenton apparently don't believe the message has gotten through yet, which is why sharp increases in penalties for texting and driving are in the works.

A state Assembly committee last week passed a bill that would double the fine on first-time offenders from $100 to $200.

If someone is caught texting behind the wheel a second time, the fine jumps to $400; a third violation would result in a $600 penalty if the bill is passed and then signed by the governor.

If someone does get convicted three times of texting behind the wheel, they could also lose their driver's license for three months and receive three points against that license, too.

The fines would be funneled into a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission program to teach people of the dangers of texting while driving.

A survey taken by the AAA auto club's Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that two out of three respondents admitted to talking on their phones while driving. One out of five confessed that they had sent text messages while behind the wheel.

According to government statistics, 23 percent of all car crashes last year involved the use of cellphones -- that adds up to 1.3 million accidents.

Research shows that when someone is texting while driving, their eyes are off of the road for a minimum of five seconds. For someone traveling at 55 mph, it means they cover the length of a football field before their eyes return to traffic.

In far too many cases, when those eyes go back to the road, they see that conditions have changed in those few seconds -- and that is exactly when accidents frequently happen.

Source: NBC, "Texting and driving penalties could double," Dec. 14, 2012

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