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No Coffee While Driving in Jersey? Fuhgeddaboudit!

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 09, 2016 6:58 AM

The Garden State can breathe (and drive) a little easier tonight. After a proposed bill was rumored to ban drinking coffee while driving, the law's author and sponsor has clarified matters. Assemblyman John Wisniewski said his proposed legislation, which doesn't mention food or drink, is aimed at distracted drivers and he can't imagine police officers pulling people over for drinking coffee.

But the fact that so many Tony Sopranos were worried about being ticketed for DWC (Driving With Coffee? Driving While Caffeinating?) may reveal a fatal flaw in the intended legislation.

Distracted by Dark Roast

New Jersey Assembly Bill No. 1908 would amend the state's current distracted driving law geared towards texting or talking on the phone while driving. Instead of targeting a "wireless telephone or electronic communication device," the new edit "specifically prohibits a driver from engaging in any activity, not related to the operation of the vehicle, in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle."

Assemblyman Wisniewski explained the revision as a way to stay ahead of ever-evolving communications technology. "The issue is that we need to try, in every way, to discourage distracted driving, it's dangerous," Wisniewski told NJ.com. "Education and enforcement can change the attitudes of people." This broader definition would avoid the need for new laws every time technology changes.

They Came for My Coffee

Critics, however, saw that vagueness of the law as license for cops to come after their cappuccinos. Or croque-monsieurs. "It was the 'ham sandwich bill' last time," Wisniewski complained. "Now it's coffee." The "last time" he's referring to is the past two legislative sessions during which he introduced similar bills, neither of which came up for a vote.

And Wisniewski's latest attempt to legislate lattes may be headed for the same fate. The bill is pending technical review by legislative counsel, and has not been brought up for a vote, despite being introduced seven months ago. So for now, residents from Sussex to Cape May can still sip their morning commute machiatos. Just be careful while doing so.

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