A New Jersey crackdown on distracted drivers ordered by Governor Chris Christie’s attorney general netted a big fish – the state’s first lady.
Mary Pat Christie, the governor’s wife, was pulled over in April by a Bedminster Township police officer who spotted her looking down at a cellphone while driving a white 2016 Chevy Suburban, according to a dash cam video posted to YouTube by NJ.com.
The incident, which took place in the leafy suburban town 44 miles west of New York City, came to light through an Open Public Records Act search by NJ Advance Media, which provides content for NJ.com as well as the Newark-based Star-Ledger and other newspapers.
The video, posted online on Thursday, shows Christie telling the officer she was not making a phone call.
“You can’t have it in your hand at all,” the officer replied. “No ma’am.”
“What if you’ve, like, coffee in your hand?” Christie asked.
“Technically, according to the law, if it’s distracting, you can’t have a coffee in your hand, or anything else, either,” the officer said, adding that it was “cellphone distracted driver month.”
“Was I not looking at the road?” Christie said.
“You were looking down at your phone,” the officer replied. “I didn’t know what you were doing. I just saw the phone in your hand.”
Christie appeared in Warren Township municipal court on a charge of operating a motor vehicle while using a cellphone, according to NJ.com. She pleaded guilty and paid a $250 fine.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
The first lady was pulled over by an officer assigned to a grant-funded detail to enforce the state’s hands-free cellphone law.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino had requested and received $1.2 million in federal grant money for a campaign against texting and other types of distracted driving after a spike in traffic fatalities, according to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
Distracted-driving dragnets were manned by 192 police agencies across New Jersey from April 1 through April 21, said state spokesman John Schoonejongen. Officers wrote nearly 15,300 tickets for cellphone use, including the one issued to Christie, as well as more than 7,000 careless driving summonses, he said.
The result was a more than 7 percent drop in traffic fatalities from the year-earlier period, Schoonejongen said, citing division data.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)