N.J. Senate passes tougher driver-cellphone bill

June 29, 2012

TRENTON – In its final voting session before Saturday’s budget deadline, the Senate on Thursday approved dozens of bills previously passed by the Assembly, including one to stiffen penalties for drivers who have injured or killed others because they were using their cellphones.

Under the bill, which the Senate and Assembly passed unanimously, prosecutors could charge distracted drivers with assault or vehicular manslaughter – a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Currently, those caught texting or talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device – even those involved in a fatal crash – face a maximum of 18 months’ incarceration.

The bill was named for the victims of four accidents believed to have been caused by distracted drivers. One of them, Toni Bolis of Washington Township, Gloucester County, was killed in a head-on collision last June, days before she was due to give birth to a son, to be named Ryan.