Distracted Drivers: How New Jersey Is Changing With the Times
Distracted driving kills people and causes millions in damages each year. In fact, driving while distracted is cited in more than 150,000 traffic collisions annually in New Jersey alone. More than 3,000 people died nationwide in 2017 in accidents involving distracted driving, and accident lawyers and other experts expect that number to continue trending upward until substantial changes are made to the law.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is not a new concept and has been an issue as long as people have been operating motor vehicles. But it has become a bigger problem now that people have more ways to be distracted while driving. Most people have a smartphone with them wherever they go, and they may use them while driving for phone calls, text messaging, song playlists and other entertainment. Recent statistics have indicated that distracted driving is nearly as dangerous as drunk driving and is arguably more problematic for society since it is much more pervasive and does not yet have the stigma associated with it. Ways that a driver can be distracted while driving include:
- Checking email
- Eating and drinking
- Putting on makeup
- Taking a photo or selfie
- Reaching for a mobile device
- Talking to a passenger or being on the phone
Distracted Driving Laws
Distracted driving has not always been a traffic violation. There have been exceptions, such as certain states banning shaving and applying makeup while driving, but such laws were uncommon. This began to change around the turn of the century with states like New Jersey recognizing the need to account for preoccupied drivers in their driving laws. These laws not only affect people after the fact but give law enforcement the power to stop people who are caught in the act.
Cell Phone Laws
Cell phone laws are a subset of distracted driving laws that deal with all manner of cell phones and even other mobile devices. This particular kind of distraction is often isolated because it is the most prevalent distraction but also because the state wants to allow certain usage. New Jersey, for instance, has banned cell phones while driving unless they can be used hands-free. Other states have simply banned the use of cell phones outright regardless of whether you can use them hands-free or not.
Distracted Driver Crackdown in New Jersey
Recently, New Jersey has given police departments $1 million in grants for additional patrols in 2019 to target texting while driving. This orchestrated blitz is interesting. Traffic laws cannot be enforced all of the time. In order to be effective, people need to be aware that the law exists and that there will be penalties if they are caught. During a 2018 campaign, New Jersey issued more than 13,000 tickets for texting while driving as well as nearly an additional 6,000 tickets just for careless driving.
Penalties for Distracted Driving
Penalties vary from state to state and are evolving as these laws mature. In New Jersey, first-time offenders face a fine of at least $200 and as much as $400. A second offense results in a fine of at least $400 and as much as $600. Offenses beyond the second result in a fine of at least $600 and as much as $800. Those offenses also cause the driver to accrue three motor vehicle points and give a judge the right to suspend your license for up to 90 days if the behavior is deemed egregious enough.
Were You Hurt Due to a Distracted Driver?
If you were involved in an accident due to someone operating a motor vehicle while distracted, allow us to sort out the details. RAM Law has considerable experience overseeing such cases. An accident lawyer with our law firm will review your case at no cost to you and without obligation. Often, we represent clients under a contingency agreement, which means that we are not paid until the case is won. Contact us online or call our New Brunswick office at 732-247-3600 or our Somerville location at 908-448-2560.