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New Jersey Lawmakers Propose Law to Expand Distracted Driving Definitions

Imagine driving down I-287, there is a lot of traffic and you are running late to an event. You hear your cell phone alert you to incoming text messages. It could be your kids, your parents, your boss or maybe someone else who needs to urgently communicate something to you. You pick up the phone and begin to read the text messages, while trying to keep one eye on the road. Most of us can imagine this situation clearly because we’ve experienced it.

Texting and driving is a seemingly innocent act, but the facts show that texting drivers take their eyes off of the road for 5 seconds on average, which is enough time for a car traveling 55 mph to move almost 400 feet. Studies show that texting and driving causes 330,000 severe car accident injuries are attributed to texting and driving. When we think of distracted driving, texting is usually the first thing that comes to mind.

Current New Jersey Law Only Prohibits the Use of Handheld Communication Devices

Texting is only one form of distracted driving, and the State of New Jersey is considering serious new definitions of distracted driving to include not only texting, but eating and drinking behind the wheel as well. Under current New Jersey law, a driver cannot use a cell phone or other communication device on a public road or highway unless the device is hands-free.

Penalties for improperly using a cell phone are as follows:

  • A fine between $200 and $400 for a first offense
  • A fine between $400 and $600 for a second offense
  • A fine between $600 and $800 for a third or greater offense

For a third or subsequent violation of this law, you will be penalized with 3 motor vehicle points and a judge may revoke your driving privileges for up to 90 days.  According to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission, your license will be suspended after accumulating 12 points on your current driving record. A few points may seem insignificant, but there are a variety of ways the state will provide you with points and they can add up quickly.

Under current law, only texting and using a handheld cell phone are specifically banned but the law proposed by New Jersey lawmakers would ban all activities not relevant to the operation of the vehicle if those activities interfere with its safe operation. Such activities could include reading a map or newspaper and also food consumption.

New Jersey Traffic Lawyers Must be Aware of Changing Laws

There is no doubt that technology has changed and will continue to change our legal landscape. An effective criminal defense attorney must always stay aware of new or changing laws both as adopted by the legislature and as established in court. New Jersey attorney Phillip J. Murphy has over 25 years of legal experience handling a variety of criminal cases including traffic violation prosecutions. Although a traffic ticket may not seem extraordinary, your driving record matters. Points can add up quickly and affect not only your insurance premiums, but your ability to get to and from work and even your ability to apply for certain jobs.

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