The ordinance states that within the Hoboken city limits it will be illegal to operate a mobile telephone while driving unless one with hands-free technology is used.
"People have to understand that when they are driving they are operating a two- or three-ton piece of heavy machinery," said the ordinance's sponsor, Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, Wednesday night. "[Cars] can be a killing machine if you don't concentrate 100 percent of the time."
A 1997 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that talking on a phone while driving quadruples the risk of an accident and is almost as dangerous as being drunk behind the wheel.
If adopted, Hoboken will join Nutley and Marlboro Townships in banning the holding of cell phones while driving. Currently there are 23 towns in New Jersey that either have a law on the books or are in the process of approving such legislation.
Although Castellano does not yet know what the fine for violators will be, she said they could possibly approach $250.
While the council was in favor of enacting a ban, not everyone in the community is supportive.
"It's silly," said Hoboken resident Al Rhodes as he strolled on Washington Street. "Unless they make laws like this enforced statewide, it doesn't work. There are hundreds of cities in the state, and some have law and some don't. Are we going to be like, 'I'm in Hoboken now, better turn off the phone?' The average person is going to be oblivious."
Recently, Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler vetoed an ordinance passed by the Jersey City City Council on Sept. 13, 2000 that would have banned the holding of cell phones while driving within city limits.
While some are skeptical, there are many that would fully support a ban.
"Cell phones in this country have gotten out of control," said Jersey City resident Mary Movado, a mother of two, walking on Washington Street Tuesday. "They are great tools and I have one, but is it too much to ask to put them away for a couple minutes and make sure you actually get were you are going? I don't think that is asking too much at all."
Rosie Sharp agreed that a little extra safety couldn't hurt. "You see it all the time," said the Hoboken resident. "People just don't pay attention to the road when they are speeding down the road and talking on the phone. Just the other day I was driving down the highway and this SUV was driving really erratically so I sped up to pass her. That just can't be safe. She deserved a ticket."
The next step on the road to adoption by the city is the public hearing where citizens will be able to express concerns or praises they might have for the ordinance. The pubic session will be held at the next City Council meeting on June 11.
"It's hard enough to drive in Hoboken as it is," said Castellano. "The streets are narrow, there are children playing and I see people blowing through stop signs all the time. To drive here, you have to focus on the road. You just don't have any other choice."