State Lawmakers Considering Tougher Penalties for Distracted Driving Violators

Person using cell phone while driving.

Person using cell phone while driving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Jersey was one of the first states to adopt laws prohibiting the use of handheld cell phones and texting while driving, but some lawmakers feel drivers do not always take these offenses seriously enough. Now the State is considering stiffer penalties for the violation of its distracted driving laws. (1)

Research indicates that texting while driving is more dangerous (at a rate of six to eight times more) than drunk driving, yet the current penalties are less severe. (2) Violating the State’s current laws against driving and using a cell phone carries a fine of $100, while drunk driving charges can carry a sentence of 2 to 15 years in jail. (1)

Drivers who talk on handheld cell phones don’t have both hands on the wheel and are concentrating on conversations rather than road conditions. When drivers text, their hands are again off the wheel, their eyes are off the road and their attention is given to reading or composing messages rather than the road. Despite the dangers, two out of three drivers surveyed by the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety said they talk on cell phones while driving and one out of five said they have texted while driving. (1)

New Jersey’s current laws ban the use of handheld cell phones by all drivers and the use of all cell phones, including hands-free phones, by school bus drivers and those who hold a driver’s permit or provisional license. A ban on texting while driving applies to all drivers. All of these bans are considered primary enforcements, meaning drivers can be stopped for these violations alone with no other traffic violations occurring. (3)

Last month, a committee of the State Assembly passed a bill that would double the penalties for using a cell phone while driving to $200 for first-time offenders, which would increase to $400 for second-time offenders and $600 for additional offenses. In addition, the violation would carry a three-point penalty for third-time offenders, who could also lose their license for up to 90 days. (1)

The current bill, along with a number of others proposed in the State, is partially in response to a recent call by the National Transportation Safety Board to ban all cell phone use while driving. The State Division of Highway Traffic Safety has warned drivers to expect checkpoints throughout the State looking for distracted drivers during the current year. (4)

The increased attention to driving and cell phone use can lead to an increase in summonses for violations of State law. If you or someone you know needs assistance with a distracted driving violation, contact Ragland Law Firm, Hunterdon County personal injury attorneys in Lebanon, NJ.

(1) http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/nj-assembly-sends-talking-or-texting-drivers-message-with-higher-fines
(2) http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/08/16327254-texting-drivers-involved-in-serious-and-fatal-crashes-get-slap-on-the-wrist-say-victims-families
(3) http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html

(4) http://handsfreeinfo.com/new-jersey-cell-phone-laws-legislation

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