By on August 8, 2016

coffee while driving (bluemini/Flickr)

New Jersey Democrats are pushing a wide-ranging distracted driving bill that would lead to harsh penalties for motorists, but does it mean cupholders will soon be outlawed in the Garden State?

The answer: probably not, but the bill would give law enforcement the blanket regulation they need to lay a charge for anything from eating behind the wheel to fixing your hair.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) sponsored the bill seven months ago, but it still hasn’t come up for a vote. The backlash to the proposed legislation has been fierce, he told the Associated Press, with media stories and residents all claiming that the bill amounts to a ban on drinking coffee.

“It was the ‘ham sandwich bill’ last time,” he told AP. “Now it’s coffee.”

New Jersey already has laws that ban texting while driving and mandate hands-free calling, but the new bill adds other potentially distracting activities to the mix. Drivers would face a $200 to $400 fine for the first offence, with penalties rising by 200-dollar increments for the second and third offence. Keep it up, and motorists could stand to lose points and face a 90-day license suspension.

Now, back to the coffee. Taking away a motorist’s morning coffee would be akin to removing stars from the flag, but the bill is vague on that point. Wisniewski recently told News12 that the bill would broaden the definition of distracted driving to include eating, grooming, and reading documents. With such a bill in place, the state wouldn’t have to update their laws every time a new technology crops up.

“The more you do other things while you’re driving, the less attention you’re paying to the road,” Wisniewski told the station. “And the less attention you’re paying to the road, the more likely that you’ll have an accident.”

Does that mean combing one’s hair with one hand or eating a breakfast burrito counts as distracted driving? Or worse — sipping coffee? Wisniewski wants to leave that judgement call to law enforcement officers.

According to AP, Wisniewski said that “he cannot imagine that a police officer would pull anyone over for drinking coffee.” That leaves the possibility that an officer could pull someone over for drinking coffee, though a media-fueled backlash would likely ensue.

Most people agree that eating soup, cereal or a burger with both hands (while driving with your knee) is dangerous. If passed, it’s likely law enforcement would look the other way if a motorist has their eyes on the road and one hand on the wheel.

Likely, not not certain.

[Image: bluemini/Flickr]

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74 Comments on “Does New Jersey Really Want to Ban Drivers From Drinking Coffee?...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    I presume that making mojitos while on the roll is right out of the question.

  • avatar

    Someone who watches these issues closely in NJ says this has come up before, but is so broadly and poorly written as legislation that it is quite unlikely to pass.

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    He “can’t imagine” huh? I’m no fabulist, but I can imagine it pretty easily. If cops can give you a distracted driving ticket for using your phone while sitting at a traffic light, they can surely give you one for drinking coffee.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Distracted driving is a problem, but this loosely written law is not the answer. It gives the police too much discretion in their profiling of drivers.

    If your best answer to a legitimate policy question is, “I can’t imagine that happening.” then maybe it’s time to revise the policy’s wording.

  • avatar
    dingram01

    Man, this is such an upsetting article that I almost had to pull over while reading it!

    • 0 avatar

      How do I type this response without putting this pizza slice down and not dipping below 90?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Voice to text!

        “How do I tight this Repose without pitting this pizza’s lice down ant not dimple blow nineteen.?”

        • 0 avatar
          Secret Hi5

          Eye-typing:
          http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/01/05/article-0-0F5810A200000578-928_468x306.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          when I drove over 4K miles a month as a regional sales and distribution manager around the Chic/Wisc/Indiana area, I was skilled enough to drive with my knees, hold a map and talk on the phone while reading a file.
          Hell…some times I would just get stuff outa the back seat.

          I NEVER got a ticket or had an accident. Driving to me was as much a skill as any sport.

          Seems like today nobody can multi task and its all being dumbed down to the idiots who never learned how to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      dingram01…and you as well Rust-MyEnemy

      thanks so very much for making my day.
      It has been rough and the laugh I got from your posts was just such a relief.
      Man, I’m still smiling.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Would this ban apply to Slurpee’s as well?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This bill needs an Autopilot exemption.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Election year click bait.

    Other states already have similar laws, some have had them for decades (this existed back in Massachusetts 30 years ago).

    I was stopped by Houston police for eating French fries while driving back in the 90s – no ticket.

    Badly written law (ask me about the fun and games at work I’m having this morning dealing with a Republican pushed incredibly poorly written law in Colorado) and likely won’t pass.

    Fun fact – my first vehicle with a cup holder wasn’t in my driveway until 1995. It had one in the center console.

    My 1985 Isuzu Impulse has exactly 0 cup holders…and 4 ashtrays.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I used to eat Big Macs while drinking a shake and smoking a Camel as I drove a stick-shift Beetle. Elders may recall the paucity of cupholders in Type 1 Beetles.

    Now, 40 years later, I find I’m a criminal? What kind of therapy can possibly heal me?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Do you still smoke? And were they non-filter? I find Camels to smell -worse- than other cigs. I can tell when someone’s smoking one. They have like a “burnt grapes” type odor. Best way I can describe.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Funny, “burnt grapes” is exactly how I’d describe the flavor of Lucky Strikes.

        As someone who once eagerly sought out the cigarettes of the world, I hold that Camel straight’s consistent smoothness, richness and well cured tobaccos made them peers of French Gitanes and Gauloises as well as German Roth-Händle brands.

        Finest coffin nails available.

        Smoked the filtered version occasionally but they tasted more ersatz. Different chemicals were added to them to ensure steady burning and whatever.

        Cold-turkey’d cigs in ’96 and stogies in ’98. Have completely undeserved nice, clean lung X-rays today.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Burned grapes is better than “burned toast” off some off-brand wacky tabacky cigaretts… stupid roomates…

        Big Mac plus a stickshift? Try a Taco Bell Mexican Pizza while driving a stickshift! Or try folding newspapers into plastic bags, driving a stickshift, steering with your knees, and driving on the sidewalk so you can throw them from your driver’s seat to the customers’ doorsteps. Stickshift vs automatic, a column shift automatic with a bench seat has the advantage that you can drive from anywhere in the front seat, which means go with the flow of traffic when pulling up to mailboxes on rural routes. Now THAT is efficiency, not distraction! For urban delivery, if you pull into a driveway and time the brake pedal just right you can really launch a newspaper in a beautiful parabolic arc… the extra big weekend papers were great fun for torpedoing the metal part of people’s screen doors (accidentally) and/or sleeping cats (not accidentally) on the doorstep at 3am.

        My misspent youth.

      • 0 avatar

        @CoreyDL
        Camels had the best magazine ads though. I have one on the bathroom wall showing a cacophony of action surrounding a sea monster carrying off a beautiful young woman who, as she lies in his arms, is smoking a cigarette. Among the crowds on the beach watching this spectacle: a ’55 Chevy state police car on its side.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I seem to recall at some point in the ’90s they got in trouble for their ads, and had to tone them down because they were too “fun” and might be considered marketing toward kids?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            You don’t remember the cartoon camel with the penis nose?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Can’t say as I do. I remember the billboards around, and the poster type ads at the grocery store but that’s about it. My mom wouldn’t leave a magazine or something lying around which had a cigarette ad in it. I think she would tear them out.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      A hot coffee enema might cure what ails yeh…

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that as written, the law seems to apply to police officers as well. The only exemption operators of emergency vehicles have is for the use of two-way radios (which also applies to CB and Ham radio operators). Cop cars have all sorts of computers and other electronic equipment that could easily run afoul of the proposed legislation. Remember, the official position of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation is that electronic devices are inherently distracting and you can’t be trained to overcome that.

    “An operator of a moving motor vehicle shall not engage in any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle on a public road or highway. ”

    Is running a plate number through LEIN related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle?

    I kid, I kid. Does anyone expect that even if the law as written applies to cops that it will be enforced against them?

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      The law does apply to the police too, but doughnuts are exempted..

      • 0 avatar
        zerofoo

        The law is written by Democrats – you know there will be a “cop carve-out”.

        We are all equals, but some of us are more equal than others.

        • 0 avatar
          cornellier

          Off topic. Mods, if you’re out there, this partisan point scoring needs to be nipped in the bud otherwise I’ll see all y’all on Reddit.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            He paraphrased Orwell, which at least makes it a somewhat intelligent post.

            I don’t know who you are but this is nothing compared to some of the debates I’ve witnessed so if this bothers you try chiming in during the next debate of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks vs Reason.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Don’t know Reddit… is it better because it permits no debate?

            Alles gleichgeschaltet ist?

            (That’s nazi for “Evahbuddy got they mind right?”)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The next time I come by I’ve got a new light bulb for your door.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “I’ve got a new light bulb for your door.”

            Eh? So I can read Reddit? Is Reddit a crucial pulse point of society my ignorance of which is staggeringly staggering?

            I refuse to look it up.

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      That particular defect will be quickly remedied, just like when the pointless NY firearm law accidentally went into effect on cops and civilians alike.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I’m sure Democrats will end up calling this “common sense coffee regulation”.

    What will they call the moving violation at DMV? Dunkin driving maybe?

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    After they rake in a few million in fines to plug a hole in the budget they’ll announce that they’re going to take a look at the law based on the unexpected public resentment. The money stays in the treasury.

  • avatar
    operagost

    This is just the kind of legislation localities need to fill the holes in their budgets with frivolous moving violations that can’t be defended in court. Everyone will need dash cams like in Russia, just to prove they were driving safely while Officer Barbrady was trying to hit his monthly quota.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Wouldn’t this fall under “driving without care and attention” that has been on the books forever?

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    Somewhere German automaker association is rejoicing and angry it took lazy Americans so long to outlaw drinking and cup holders in the cars.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    As a former resident of NJ I feel it should be required that all current Congressman/woman have to write legislation to remove one piece of stupid legislation from the books per term and put it to a vote in the house.

    Perhaps in a decade or two the state could get back to normal.

  • avatar
    Paddan

    Yet another reason that I love living in this state.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Listening to a radio is distracting as well. Maybe they should put an excise tax on radios, GPS systems, and a host of other electronic items except those items that can be used to monitor a driver’s behavior and can be used by the police in the guise of enforcing these laws. While we are at it coffee can be harmful to some people so ban it from public consumption. We need more nanny laws to protect us from ourselves. This is a law that if passed has gone to far and allows police to issue more citations. I am all for preventing distracted driving but this is absurd. I am willing to bet that the politicians that pass this law will be exempt from it. “Do what I say, not what I do.”

    • 0 avatar
      cornellier

      Jeff S: you say you’re “all for preventing distracted driving” but you oppose the suggestions on the table. What do you propose?

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        I am opposed to Government trying to regulate every aspect of our lives. Reading the link in the article it appears that the language does not specifically prohibit eating and drinking while driving but it does appear to be so general that it could be used for that. I hope that it will not give law enforcement the latitude to ticket a driver for merely having a cup of coffee or a bag of food in their vehicle even if they are not eating and drinking while driving. If so you could be ticketed for just being in your vehicle with a cup of coffee while parked. It is illegal in many states to text or use cell phones while your driving which I can understand but how far do you go with laws and legislating proper conduct? Do we next have police parked at the end of the drive-in window at Starbucks issuing citations? Its like anything to the extreme, the next thing political correctness will be legislated. The State of New Jersey has bigger problems to solve than distracted drivers under the influence of coffee.

        Hopefully this law will not get passed and if a law is needed then it should be more specific so as not to be interpreted too loosely. It would be better not to try to cover every possible present and future distraction that could happen while driving.

  • avatar
    TomHend

    More distractions from piece of crap politicians (both Dems & RePS)

  • avatar
    Pch101

    EDIT: I missed the last part of the bill. My apologies for that.

    It’s fairly generic. Cops can already stop you for driving badly, so that aspect of it doesn’t change much. My concern would be about the fines — they’re fairly steep.

  • avatar
    Von

    Can I assume there will be a lot of black people that get tickets for playing loud music while driving?

    While the rest of us can blissfully day dream in far away landia of NPR where all the kids are above average and the cops will just wave us through.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      FTR we were frequent targets of disturbing the peace citations as teenagers in the 90s for such blasting music type behavior. Believe me at the time, we thought it was BS. But as one ages, one realizes nobody is above the law. Except Hillary. Oh and Wall Street. Plus Clinton donors; oh and illegal immigrants. But other than all of them, nobody is above the law.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Von

      Yes, yes you can. This is a probable cause bill plain and simple. Almost any stop at any time with any driver would be justifiable if a cup capable of holding liquid was present in a cup holder (90% of all cars, anytime). I think we’d see a huge number of stops predicated on a cup in hand just so that the initial contact couldn’t be challenged.

      But hey, at least it’s not aimed entirely and obviously at black kids like the saggy pants laws. Progress?

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Nice Phaeton!

    Edit: ah no, just a Touareg :(

  • avatar
    redav

    The Daily Show (or something similar) was able to get a NJ rep to admit that they don’t let people pump their own gas because they believe the people are too incompetent to do it. Obvious trolling & clever editing, but they still said it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I think New Jersey would be a better place to be from and not in. Better to move and let the legislators pass some more laws and continue New Jersey’s spiral downward. Maybe eventually New Jersey will come back after they lose most of their businesses and lose population but then it might be too late.

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