Five Questions for New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon

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After Tuesday’s “DaySide” segment on New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon’s proposed legislation to ban smoking while driving, the show received an overwhelming response its viewers. Click in the box to the right to watch the segment from "DaySide."

Following the show, “DaySide” producer Michael Sorrentino went a little deeper into the issue with the assemblyman.

DAYSIDE: Is smoking while driving a serious problem?

ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN MCKEON: It depends on your definition of serious. By extrapolating the statistics, distracted drivers due to smoking account for 1,500 accidents, 150 fatalities and 70 million in overall economic impact nationwide. Obviously there are many more pressing issues faced by our state and nation.

DAYSIDE: Do you expect police to enforce this law?

MCKEON: As the proposal is a secondary offence, police are only to enforce if a violation is observed in consort with another primary offense such as speeding. Police officers who have an issue with the law will no doubt, as they are sworn to do, separate their opinions from their duty.

DAYSIDE: If this bill were to pass, could we expect to see other anti-smoking legislation?

MCKEON: This proposal is not anti smoking, no more than hands-free legislation is anti-cell phone. It is about vehicular safety. I am a proponent of certain legislation aimed at curtailing tobacco use such as banning smoking in college dorms, raising the age for the purchase of tobacco products and advertising it within school zones.

DAYSIDE: What has been the public response so far, and what do you expect after the bill is passed?

MCKEON: I expect the proposal will be subsumed into another legislator’s bill that seeks to prohibit all activities (like eating) that are driver distractions without specifically listing each one. This also requires police investigators to document specifics on driver distraction in auto accidents so we have a database. The public response from smokers, who understandably feel under attack, has not been warm, but when confronted with statistics as reasonable people, they understand the sentiment.

DAYSIDE: What inspired your push to ban smoking while driving?

MCKEON: Observations on the roadways, combined with recent talk of strengthening hands-free cell phone laws and the research which backed up smoking as a distraction, factor in the same range as cell phones. This is a simple no cost way to improve traffic safety and as a tangential benefit if a law abiding citizen becomes less dependant on tobacco and quits...

"DaySide" wants to know what you think about the proposed legislation, e-mail us at "DaySide" airs weekdays at 1 p.m. ET.