Your car is somewhat dated, and you don’t have one of those fancy Bluetooth devices. However, you’ve managed to get away with it for years. Whether you’re in local traffic or on the Turnpike, you hold the phone to your ear when you need to catch up with friends and family. One day it happens. You see lights and sirens, and you receive your first ticket for distracted driving.
Perhaps you’ve been charged with texting while driving. Did you know in New Jersey a citation for texting while driving carries a fine of $200 to $400 for a first offense? Also, if you cause an accident while texting, you may face a reckless driving charge.
In recent years, many states like New Jersey have added distracted driving charges as punishable offenses. Distracted driving carries steep fines and the possibilities of court, a suspended driver’s license, and insurance hikes.
If you are facing distracted driving charges, you should consider talking to a New Jersey traffic ticket lawyer who can help you to get your fees and charges reduced and your driving privileges protected.
Distracted Driving and Some Statistics
Maybe you’re under the impression that you’re not all that distracted when both hands aren’t on the wheel. However, the statistics say otherwise. Unfortunately, thousands of people have been killed in auto accidents caused by distracted drivers. In fact, recent news reports tell the story of an elderly woman was killed by a distracted driver using a cell phone. The fatal accident occurred right on Grove Street in Elizabeth.
In 2012, New Jersey enacted a law that made it a crime to cause a death while driving and using a cell phone. The penalties include up to 10 years in jail and up to a $150,000 fine.
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from safe driving. This includes:
- Talking or texting on your phone
- Chatting with other people in your vehicle
- Smoking, eating or drinking
- Adjusting the radio, climate, or navigation controls
- putting on make-up, shaving, or other grooming
- Reading a book or newspaper
- Turning to check on children in the back seat
- Tending to a pet.
Distracted drivers fail to pay attention to the road, take their hands off the steering wheel, and react slowly.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. The NHTSA cites texting as the most alarming distraction.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General cites distracted driving in New Jersey as a major contributing factor in over 817,000 motor vehicle crashes in the state from 2010 to 2014.
New Jersey Distracted Driving Laws: Do You Have a Defense?
Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2 “it shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner likely to endanger a person or property.” A first offense will result in a fine between $50 and $150.
What about that ticket you received for texting while driving?
New Jersey’s cell phone law (N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3) is specific in stating: “wireless telephone or electronic communication … shall be unlawful except when the telephone is a hands-free wireless telephone…”
Beyond the previously mentioned fine of $200 to $400 for the first offense, a second offense carries a fine of $400 to $600. For a third or subsequent offense, the punishment is a fine between $600 and $800, three points on your driver’s record, and suspension of your license for 90 days.
Although you have received a ticket for distracted driving, you don’t have to automatically plead guilty, pay the fine, and accept the results.
In some cases, you can defend against texting while driving because the state might not be able to prove you were texting.
The state law is not specific about other things distracted drivers do, like checking on the kids or eating.
No matter what the distracted driving charge, don’t fight the ticket alone. An experienced traffic attorney can help you to understand the distracted driving charge against you and work to get it and its fines reduced—even dismissed.
A distracted driving charge can impact your license, driving record, and insurance. Beninato & Matrafajlo Attorneys at Law has experience in tickets for New Jersey traffic violations. If you are facing distracted driving charges, please call set up a consultation. There is no charge to meet with us. We can help you fight the ticket in court! Contact us to schedule an appointment!