Paterson approves cellphone limits
Thursday, February 27, 2003
By EILEEN MARKEY
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
PATERSON - Starting March 24, it will be illegal to use a cellphone while driving in the city - except with a hands-free device.
Violators face $100 to $250 fines. The ban, the first of its kind in Passaic County, includes streets and all highways that pass through Paterson, including Route 80.
"This is just again a statement that a distracted driver is an unsafe driver," said Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres. "We want to take the lead from what the New England Journal of Medicine has said, and this is what we're saying. And we think not only the state of New Jersey but the country as a whole is going that way." The journal has published studies connecting cellphone use to accidents.
Torres said the cellphone ban is not intended to be punitive or an imposition on anyone; it is just supposed to make the roads safer.
"Now they know there's a law and they can buy a $2 headset and they'll say, 'This is pretty cool,'" he said of cellphone users.
The City Council unanimously approved the ordinance Tuesday night, heralding it as an important move for safety. Councilman Juan Torres, who represents the 5th Ward, cast the final vote, saying he originally opposed the law, but seeing dozens of irresponsible, chatty drivers changed his mind.
The new law requires drivers to use a hands-free device or pull over when dialing, answering, talking, or listening on a cellphone.
Calling police in an emergency is permitted.
The Department of Public Works will put up brightly colored signs throughout the city announcing the ban, Director Manuel Ojeda said Wednesday. His department is ordering more than 60 signs to post on main streets and at the city's borders.
Councilman Aslon Goow, who represents the 2nd Ward, was optimistic about the ban. He said he was confident police would ticket violators.
"I believe a lot of things are going to start getting enforced," he said.
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