New Jersey passing tougher laws against cellphone use while driving

Forty years ago this month, the first telephone call was made from a cellphone, forever changing the way people communicate. However, with the convenience comes the potential for distractions while doing everyday tasks, like driving a car.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month in New Jersey and, in an effort to reduce car crash rates in the state, lawmakers are pushing tougher legislation for motorists caught violating distracted driving laws. In March, the New Jersey Assembly approved stiffer penalties for offenders, imposing fines as follows:

  • First-time offenders - a minimum of $200 to a maximum of $400
  • Second offense - $400 to $600
  • Third or more offenses - $600 to $800 plus a license suspension of 90 days per offense

Education about proper cellphone use is important. Most New Jersey drivers do not know that they can be penalized for using a speakerphone device if the cellphone is still in their hands.

Lawmakers referred to various studies to back up their position regarding the need for stricter laws. According to AAA, two out of three drivers talk on their cellphones and one out of five read or send text messages while driving. A Transport Research Laboratory study also revealed that drivers who are texting have worse reaction times than drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

Deadly drivers

The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety estimates that distracted driving caused more than 150,000 accidents in the state during a one-year period. Thousands of people across the nation lose their lives each year because of distracted drivers, forever affecting surviving family members and friends.

A New Jersey law passed last year imposes criminal penalties on cellphone-using drivers who cause motor vehicle accidents that result in bodily injuries or deaths. However, too many drivers still believe accidents only happen to others. Despite the prohibition against cellphone use while driving, many admit to texting at the wheel, unaware how much their driving skills are impaired.

Help for the injured

No matter what the distraction, negligent drivers should be held responsible for the injuries and deaths they cause. If you or a loved one suffers injuries due to an inattentive driver, seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney knowledgeable about car accident cases may be able to help you obtain compensation to which you are be entitled such as:

  • Lost wages
  • Reimbursement of medical expenses
  • Long-term medical care
  • Damage to your vehicle or personal property
  • Pain and suffering

Survivor benefits may also be available to family members suddenly deprived of a spouse, parent or child.