Committee OKs ban on hand-held cell phones

Staff Writer

Committee OKs ban on hand-held
cell phones
Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN — The township is now the third municipality in Monmouth County to put the kibosh on having your ear to the phone while driving.

The Township Committee decided to beat the state to the punch by voting unanimously Monday night to prohibit hand-held cell phone use while driving.

The ordinance was modeled after the one enacted in neighboring Hazlet just over a year ago. Marlboro is the only other Monmouth County town with the ban.

There are about 16 municipalities statewide that have the ban, Township Attorney Bernard Reilly has said. After researching similar ordinances in other municipalities, Reilly said he found that most are very similar to Hazlet’s.

The township will post warning signs at about 18 entrances to the municipality for motorists, "providing fair notification that they have entered an area which restricts cell phone use," Police Chief John Pollinger said.

With more than 1,300 streets and 300 miles of road in the 42-square-mile township, the signs are considered crucial warnings of the law.

Pollinger agreed to give violators warnings for about three months to violators of the law once it is on the books, at officers’ discretion. If there is a serious careless driving violation involved with a cell phone ban infraction, though, tickets will be issued on the appropriate careless driving statute, Mayor Rosemanrie Peters has said.

The new law was created in an effort to decrease an inordinate amount of careless driving incidents involving hand-held cellular telephones, officials said.

The ordinance sets out to regulate cell phone use by drivers, but exempts emergency personnel on duty and anyone trying to contact public safety personnel for an emergency.

Drivers not exempt from the law may use a hand-held cell phone in a vehicle while parked or while using a hands-free device that allows them to keep both hands on the wheel of the vehicle while driving.

The phone must also have the capability of hands-free answering and dialing in addition to talking and listening.

Cell phone use is defined by the ordinance as dialing, answering, talking and listening.

The fine for violating the Middletown ordinance is "not to exceed $250."