In New Jersey, driving while using a cellphone, whether it is talking, texting, or emailing, is banned. As distracted driving leads to thousands of car crashes, many of them fatal, the legislature is cracking down its laws. New Jersey’s cellphone and texting laws are deemed “primary” laws, which means that a police officer can pull someone over for the offense of utilizing a cellphone without having to witness any other violation. The penalties for texting and driving in the first offense include a fine of $200-$400. The second offense fine increases to $400-$600. The third (or subsequent) offense includes a fine of $600-$800, three motor vehicle points on your license and a possible 90-day license suspension. If a pedestrian or another driver or passenger is injured or killed because of a distracted driver using a handheld cell phone, that driver could be charged with an indictable crime or felony. In the case of an injury, depending on the severity, you could face between 6-18 months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. If there is a death, the driver could be charged with vehicular homicide, which involves between 5-10 years in jail and up to a $150,000 fine. Being charged with any of these violations leaves the driver susceptible to potential punitive damages that the insurance will not cover.
Yet despite these serious laws, people, teens in particular, are STILL using their phones while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10% of all fatal crashes and 15% of all injury crashes were caused by distracted drivers. 9% of drivers between the ages of 15-19 involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the accident.
One study found that texting while driving can be just as dangerous and driving while drunk, because distracted drivers were more likely to drift into another lane, change speeds, or abruptly slam on the breaks compared to drunk drivers. That being said, stay on the safe side of the road and keep your cell phones out of reach when driving.