Careless Driving in New Jersey
New Jersey Annotated Statute 39:4-97 says, “A person who drives a vehicle carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of careless driving.” This language is similar to the language in the statute forbidding reckless driving, but the penalties for careless driving are lower than the penalties for reckless driving. Why?
It has to do with intent. Reckless driving means intentionally acting in a manner that endangers a person or property, and careless driving means unintentionally doing so. A driver who is momentarily distracted by something and gets in a crash as a result did not mean to drive unsafely, but did so nonetheless. This would be a case of careless driving as opposed to reckless driving.
Penalties for Careless Driving
For starters, a person who is convicted of or pleads guilty to careless driving will be fined $85 (or $140 if the offense happens in a safe corridor, a construction zone, or a 65-mile-per-hour area). Additionally, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will put two points on your driving record. These points don’t expire, so several smaller offenses can add up over time. Three points will be subtracted from your total for each year you go without a traffic violation or a license suspension. If you get six points on your record in one three-year period, you will be fined $150, plus $25 for each point above six. If you get 12 points on your record at any time, your license will be suspended.
Effects on Insurance Rates
New Jersey-licensed auto insurance providers have their own point system that operates much like the MVC’s. Insurers look at the points you have gotten over the last three years to determine how much of a risk you present, and they will raise your premiums accordingly. A violation of NJSA 39:4-97 will add two “insurance eligibility points.