Ban on phones mirrors most US states’ traffic laws

Melinda Renuart

Jamaica’s proposed new Road Traffic Act is in line with most states in America, but is tougher than what now obtains in Florida.

Comparisons by The Gleaner have revealed that the bill, which is being debated in the House of Representatives, follows closely to some of the states where the legislation is toughest, including New York and New Jersey.

The new Jamaican legislation would ban drivers from using hand-held electronic devices and any electronic visual device outside of GPS, radio, and reversing cameras.

It proposes a fine of $10,000 for any breach of this rule, but Executive Director of the National Road Safety Council Paula Fletcher notes that it will allow for the use of hands-free phone.

“Any distractions while you are driving are bad,” said Fletcher as she argued that the best policy is not to use any phones, even hands-free, while driving.

In Florida, the use of cell phone while driving is legal and motorists can only be punished for sending texts while driving if they are pulled over for another reason.

In New York, texting or using a hand-held cell phone while driving can cost the motorist up to US$150 for a first offence, and, in New Jersey, up to US$400.

New Jersey has also established a phone line where persons can report bad drivers and drivers using cell phones.

In the meantime, Head of the Police Traffic Division Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen says that while it is not yet possible to know the number of accidents that occurred as a result of the driver using a cell phone, the cops are convinced that the use of mobile devices while driving is a major distraction.

Comparison cell phone policy for drivers

Proposed for Jamaica

No texting or “using” electronic visual devices while driving (except GPS, radio, and reversing camera).

Only hands-free phone calls allowed.

Can be enforced directly by police.

Fine of $10,000 if found guilty

New York

No texting or “using” electronic communication devices while driving.

Only hands-free phone calls allowed (except to report an emergency).

Fine of up to US$150 for first offence, five points penalty.

As of 2011, motorists can be pulled over for using phone.

New Jersey

No texting or calling, except with hands-free phone (and to report an emergency).

As of 2014 US$200 to US$400 for first offence.

Can be pulled over for using phone.

Under 21’s and bus drivers – no phones at all.


No texting, but calling is legal.

Cannot be pulled over for using phone, must have committed another infraction.

Can get learner’s permit at 15.


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