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New Jersey Distracted Driving Dragnet Nabs First Lady

By: Bridget Clerkin November 6, 2017
Mary Pat Christie, left, was cited last April for distracted driving in a campaign supported by her husband, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

New Jersey may be cracking down on distracted driving, but one case in particular is likely to grab the attention of the state’s governor.

Mary Pat Christie, New Jersey’s First Lady, was pulled over for operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone on April 10, according to recently publicized documents. The wife of Governor Chris Christie was issued a citation while driving her white 2016 Chevy Suburban through Bernardsville, according to dashcam footage released by NJ Advanced Media.

The First Lady was pulled over by a rookie cop who had joined the force just 3 months earlier. While he was reportedly unaware he'd just stopped the Governor’s wife, Christie declined to use her political connections to try to avoid being issued a ticket, according to the NJ Advanced Media report.

By taking full responsibility for her actions, Christie instead became a statistic in her husband’s otherwise successful campaign against distractions behind the wheel.

Launched this past April by New Jersey’s attorney general, the clampdown has already led to 15,292 citations issued for using a cell phone while driving—including the First Lady’s. The initiative also generated 7,003 careless driving citations issued by police officers across the state.

The campaign itself was developed in response to a rising rate of roadway deaths in New Jersey. In 2016, more than 600 people died in traffic accidents on Garden State roads, representing an 8% increase in motor vehicle fatalities from 2015.

The startling statistic was enough to move state Attorney General Christopher Porrino to request more than $1.2 million in federal grants, with the goal of launching the statewide crusade against distracted driving. And all those extra tickets have added up. According to numbers presented to NJ Advanced Media by Porrino, the initiative has already brought a 7% decrease in New Jersey roadside fatalities.

As for the First Lady, the only damage inflicted was on her wallet. She reportedly pleaded guilty to the offense, and had to pay a $250 fine. 

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