Friday, September 09, 2005

1997 Bergen Record Article

The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

May 9, 1997


Author: By NEAL THOMPSON, Staff Writer
Edition: All Editions
Section: NEWS
Page: a01

Correction: A graphic Friday incorrectly stated that state Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, and state Sen. Joseph Bubba, R-Wayne, had been convicted of driving while uninsured. The notation on their records referred to an inquiry by the Division of Motor Vehicles into the status of their insurance policies. No violations were found, according to the DMV. (Ran Saturday, May 10,1997 pA

Article Text:

When state Sen. Dick LaRossa proposed raising the speed limit to 65 mph on some New Jersey roads last year, it was a pitch by someone who knows about speeding: He has been ticketed five times for going too fas

Among his peers at the State House, LaRossa, R-Mercer County, is far from alone. An analysis by The Record of the current driving records of New Jersey's 120 state legislators found that nearly 60 percent have some type of traffic violation.

That's almost quadruple the rate of the general population: Fifteen percent of New Jersey's 5.8 million drivers have violations on their current records, according to the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Some of the infractions are only indirectly related to driving, such as bouncing a check to the DMV, and many occurred before the legislators were in office, the records show. They include suspensions for failing to pay parking tickets. Although some records date back many years, others co! ver shorter periods because records are expunged after five years without a violation.

Speeding was the most common offense. Fifty-one lawmakers have at least one speeding ticket on their current records, including Assemblywoman Marion Crecco of Bloomfield, chairwoman of the Law and Public Safety Committee, who was clocked at 85 mph in 1978, before she was elected. Twenty-five have been caught more than once, and two have been caught seven times.

"I'm human. Once in a while, we tend to err," said Crecco.

Four legislators have 10 or more motor vehicle offenses on their records, and two accumulated so many violation points that the state suspended their licenses and sent them to a driver improvement program.

Traffic violations are a hot topic of debate in Trenton this year, as legislators work to revamp the auto insurance system.

One bill being considered would eliminate insurance penalties for speeders caught driving less than 15 mph above th! e speed limit. The bill's sponsor in the Assembly is Sean Dalton, D-C amden County. He has been caught speeding three times all before he was elected.

"I've become a better driver since I've joined the Legislature," said Dalton. He said there was no correlation between his past offenses and his support of the bill.

The Legislature also is considering a bill that would eliminate insurance surcharges for minor traffic infractions. The Senate sponsor: LaRossa. He said there's no connection between his bills and his record, and he attributed his speeding convictions the last one in 1988 to "youthful exuberance."

"That was almost four years before I was sworn in," he said. "I would respectfully ask the question: What's the point?"

Among the findings by The Record's analysis of legislators' driving records, which were provided upon request by the DMV:

Nine legislators had their licenses suspended for not paying parking tickets. They include Assemblywoman Joan M. Quigley, D-Jersey City, in 1994 and Sen. Berna! rd Kenny, D-Hoboken, in 1995 both sponsors of a bill to "give greater protection to motorists" whose licenses are suspended for failing to pay parking tickets.

Nineteen lawmakers have violation records that add up to 10 or more points. That's 16 percent of the Legislature compared with 2 percent of all state drivers with that many points.

Assembly Majority Whip Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-Somerset County, and Assemblyman Craig Stanley, D-Essex County, have carried 12 or more points on their licenses at once, prompting the state to send them to a driver improvement program. Bateman, who was elected in 1994, took his class in 1993. Stanley took his in 1992, four years before his election.

Stanley's 14 offenses nine of them since 1990 give him the most of any legislator. His driving record runs 11 pages and includes three violations for driving while his license was suspended and three for speeding. "I know that looks bad," said Stanley, a first! -term Democrat from Irvington. "But 10 to 15 years ago, a lot of us d id things that we wouldn't necessarily do now." Stanley's most recent speeding ticket was issued last year.

Two lawmakers, Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth County, and Assemblyman Francis Blee, R-Atlantic County, were convicted of drunken driving. Both violations occurred more than 15 years ago, before either was elected.

Fifty legislators have no violations on their current records. They include North Jersey Sens. Gerald Cardinale, Byron Baer, John Girgenti, Louis Kosco, and Henry McNamara, and Assembly members Paul DiGaetano, Nicholas Felice, Rose Heck, John Rooney, and Charles "Ken" Zisa.

Others haven't had a ticket since joining the Legislature. But, then again, lawmakers enjoy exemptions that average drivers only dream of: special license plates and immunity from arrest while traveling to state meetings.

"I've never heard of any legislator abusing that privilege," said state police spokesman Al Della Fave. But John Tiene of the New Jersey In! surance News Service, a consortium of New Jersey auto insurers, said it would take a "bold police officer" to knowingly ticket a member of the Legislature.

Still, 34 legislators have been ticketed in office, led by Sen. William E. Schluter, R-Mercer County, chairman of the Joint Committee on Ethical Standards, whose seven violations date back to 1976. He was elected in 1968.

Sen. Jim McGreevey of Middlesex County a Democratic candidate for governor was ticketed for speeding in 1990, his first year in Trenton, and for careless driving in 1995.

"Jim McGreevey is not unlike a lot of motorists in New Jersey who have to deal with congested roadways and other driving obstacles," said Rich McGrath, a spokesman for McGreevey's campaign. "We make no excuses. He's made his share of mistakes on the road, and he's paid the required fines

Copyright 1997 Bergen Record Corp.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home