Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop referred to a distracted driving bill making its way through the state Assembly as “embarrassing,” prompting Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) – a co-sponsor of the legislation – to respond that the statistics speak for themselves.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Monday morning news from Trenton… Pension payments? Nope.. Transportation Trust Fund? Nope. Property taxes? Nope. Education? Nope,” Fulop wrote on his Facebook page this morning.
“Ahh. Good to see Trenton is tackling the most important issues facing NJ (sarcastic). This is embarrassing and made national news,” he added, posting a link to CBS New York’s coverage of the situation.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by Bayonne Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), would reportedly make eating, drinking, grooming, reading or using any sort of electronic device illegal – though only the latter item is specifically mentioned in the bill.
Those caught violating the potential new law could face a $200 to $400 fine for the first offense and a $400 to $600 fine for a second offense.
Additionally, a third or subsequent offense could yield a fine of $600 to $800 and up to a 90-day license suspension that could come with motor vehicle points.
Commenters on Fulop’s Facebook post were largely unkind to the legislation, so Wisniewski didn’t take long to respond.
“400,000 people are injured each year and more than 3,000 die because of distracted driving. Some may be okay with those stats, I’m not,” he stated.
In a subsequent email to Hudson County View, Wisniewski choose not to attack Fulop and instead said the media has taken the intentions of this bill out of context.
“National safety organizations have seen an annual increase in distracted driving. The injuries and deaths are as preventable as those resulting from the failure to use seat belts,” he wrote.
“News organizations have made a caricature of this bill in order to gin up readership without regard to the facts. The bill does not mention food or drink or anything like that.”
Fulop and Wisniewski are expected to face off in next year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, so today’s interaction could be seen as a sneak preview of the 2017 election season.
Jersey City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill did not immediately return an email seeking additional comment, while Chiaravalloti’s office said that the Assemblyman was unavailable for comment due to a family medical emergency.