Driving a vehicle requires your complete attention, and drivers have to cope with numerous distractions when behind the wheel. Some people who are confident drivers feel like they can juggle multiple tasks while driving such as reading email, talking on the phone, looking at videos, conversing with passengers or eating. Unfortunately, this can lead to distracted driving accidents in New Jersey.
New Jersey Senators Fred Madden and Linda Greenstein are concerned about highway safety in the Garden State and have been seeking ways to prevent distracted driving. They introduced a bill to create a task force to pursue the matter, and the bill passed the Senate on February 10, 2020.
About the Madden, Greenstein Bill
The 13-member Task Force on Driver Distractions would include the N.J. commissioner of transportation, the commissioner of education, the chief administrator of the N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission, the superintendent of state police, the director of the division of highway safety and others.
The task force would have a year to study the impact of driver distractions on road and highway safety and make recommendations for potential legislative or regulatory action, if appropriate.
The task force would propose ideas for a public information campaign to increase the awareness of the risks of distracted driving and suggest ways to educate motorists on how to minimize the risks.
Types of Distracted Driving
Driver distraction is an issue on every road, and distracted driving deaths have been steadily increasing since 2010.
According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration:
- 3,166 people were killed in distraction-affected motor vehicle crashes in 2017
- 6% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted
- 8% of drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted
- 599 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists) were killed in distraction-affected crashes.
Distracted driving comes in a variety of forms, but distractions can be categorized into three types: manual, visual, and cognitive.
Manual distractions refer to activities that cause you to take one or both hands off of the steering wheel, such as:
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Reaching over to a child or other passenger
- Typing a phone number on a cell phone
- Adjusting knobs or buttons on the dash of your car.
Visual distractions take your eyes off the road. Examples include:
- Checking and adjusting your phone, GPS, radio, or temperature controls
- Searching for something on the floor of the car or in a wallet or bag
- Applying makeup or looking at your reflection in the mirror
- Looking out the side window at other cars or at the view.
Cognitive distractions are actions that take your mind away from driving, such as:
- Conversations with passengers or talking on the phone
- Being drowsy or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Intense emotions, such as thinking about something upsetting or feeling anger toward other drivers.]
Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it takes your attention away from the task of driving in all three ways:
- Manually because you are holding your phone instead of having your hands on the steering wheel to be able to react quickly.
- Visually because your eyes are focused on your phone and not the road.
- Cognitively because your concentration is on your phone rather than the driving environment.
Distracted Driving Law in New Jersey
Texting and driving laws for handheld electronics such as cellphones and tablets prohibit drivers from using them in any manner. The only exceptions to this are if the driver is using one to contact authorities due to an emergency, or if the driver’s safety is threatened. Additionally, bus drivers and novice drivers are not allowed to use cellphones at all, even hands-free.
It’s not only dangerous to drive while distracted. In many situations, it’s against the law.
There are legal consequences for disregarding the distracted driving laws in New Jersey, which is considered a primary offense. Law enforcement has the right to pull over a vehicle and issue a citation to the driver just for engaging in a distracting activity, even if it has not caused speeding or any other traffic violation.
Anyone can report a driver for texting or distracted driving by calling a Dangerous Driver System hotline at #77. Drivers who have been reported will be notified by a letter sent from the state police that explains the potential penalties they may incur if pulled over by an officer for distracted driving.
Current Penalties for Distracted Driving in New Jersey
The penalties for distracted driving are based on the number of previous violations committed by the driver, according to the Department of Law and Public Safety’s Office of the Attorney General:
- First offense is a fine of $200-$400.
- Second offense is a fine of $400-$600.
- Third or higher offense gives you a fine of $600-$800, three license points, and may cause loss of driving privileges.
These offenses are looked at over a period of 10 years, so every offense within a 10-year period receives the next highest penalty. Safety officers or court officials have the ability to alter these penalties at their discretion.
Cited for Distracted Driving? Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been cited for distracted driving and are concerned that it will affect your driving record, or if you had an accident that caused damage or injury to another driver, you need legal advice. Contact us.
Call the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall at (877) 450-8301 for a free and confidential consultation. We have multiple locations throughout New Jersey, and our experienced team will explain your rights and options to help you minimize the consequences.