New Jersey has become the second state to pass legislation that bans the use of hand-held cell phones while operating a moving vehicle. New York state passed the country’s first hands-free law in 2001, and more than 40 states have pending legislation.

The law, signed by New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey, allows cell phone use provided the placement of hands-free equipment does not interfere with the operation of federally required equipment on the vehicles such as air bags.

Drivers may use a hand-held phone only in cases of personal danger or to report a fire, traffic accident, serious road hazard, or to report a dangerous or reckless driver.

Law enforcement officials may only cite non-compliant drivers as a secondary action, that is, when a driver is pulled over for another reason. Penalties for using a hand-held phone while driving is a fine ranging from $100 to $250. No license or insurance points would be assessed.

At least 25 countries, including England, Italy, Israel and Japan, have similar laws.