Though one of Chris Christie’s duties as governor of New Jersey is to reportedly fetch Donald Trump’s McDonald's orders, the Newark-born politician and die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan might want to stop sneaking French fries during his deliveries.
According to NJ.com, the state’s lawmakers are attempting to push through legislation that would make it illegal to eat and drink while operating a motor vehicle, doling out stiff $200 to $400 fines to those who snack behind the wheel. While in year’s past, the penalty for the behavior was capped at spilling a hot coffee on one’s lap, repeat offenders could now be made to pay $600 to $800 and risk having their licenses suspended for 90 days.
“This bill addresses the increasing problem of distracted driving,” the proposed measure states. “The bill specifically prohibits a driver from engaging in any activity, not related to the operation of the vehicle, in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle.”
Over the years, the dangers of texting while driving have often made headlines, but if New Jersey’s new bill passes, it will become just the third state in the US to outlaw food and beverages on the open road. Predictably, the legislation has both its supporters and detractors. Proponents of the believe believe safe roads should take precedence over convenience, while the opposition believes the motion as overly cautious and unnecessary.
John Wisniewski and Nicholas Chiaravalloti, the Democratic Assemblymembers behind the bill, claim the legislation is an educational measure, rather than solely a punitive one.
"The issue is that we need to try, in every way, to discourage distracted driving, it's dangerous," Wisniewski said. "Education and enforcement can change the attitudes of people."
Still, some organizations are wondering where the line will be drawn.
“Would [the bill] make changing the radio station or adjusting the volume illegal?” Steve Carrellas, the policy and government affairs director for the state’s National Motorists Association, asked rhetorically. “What about talking to a passenger?"
While the steep fines and license suspensions seem extreme, the message to curb distracting behaviors in the car is nothing new. In 2014, the US Department of Transportation released a series of PSAs aimed at teenagers, encouraging young people not to eat or drink and instead focus their attention on the road.