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New Jersey considering new distracted driving bill

The issue of distracted driving has received considerable attention from states across the country. Much legislation has been passed that makes it illegal to use a cellphone or text while driving. New Jersey has some of the strongest distracted driving laws in the country, completely banning the use of handheld cellphones and texting while driving. Drivers caught violating these rules would incur significant fines.

The state is also considering a new bill that would give police more power when investigating drivers involved in car accidents. After a crash, police would be permitted to check a driver's cellphone to determine if it was being used when the collision occurred. The bill has been the subject of considerable debate.

Police officers would only be able to request the driver's phone if they had reasonable suspicion that the motorist was engaging in distracted driving. Once the officer receives the phone, it must be quickly examined for any evidence, and then returned to the motorist. It is unclear how long the officers would have to look at the information contained on the phone.

It has been very difficult for states to learn exactly how many car accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Often, any evidence of distraction will only be reported if the driver admits to it at the time of the crash. Police may try to gather records from cellphone companies to learn if the driver was using the phone when he or she got into the accident, but this can be a very time-consuming process. 

The new bill may not gather enough support to become law. Groups opposing the proposal feel that it might lead to potential violations of privacy. They have proposed using less intrusive means to uncover this evidence. 

If injured in a crash by a distracted driver, there may be options available. Those involved in these accidents should speak to a personal injury attorney to learn more about the compensation that they may be able to recover. 

Source: CNN.com, "After the crash: Driver's license, registration, cellphone, please," Ed Payne, June 12, 2013. 

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