Distracted Driving Laws in New Jersey
Distracted driving in New Jersey causes hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries each year. In fact, over 800,000 motor vehicle crashes resulted from inattentive driving from 2011 to 2015. These distracted driving facts have encouraged states to develop their own laws to enforce safe driving practices. Certain distractions, such as texting, have been banned because of the dangers they pose.
To remain safe and alert while driving, you must be familiar with the distracted driving laws in the state and prevent distractions while you are driving. The follow sections detail what you can do to avoid being pulled over for driving without paying attention and to reduce the likelihood of related accidents. Additionally, you will learn how New Jersey driving laws may penalize and affect you if you are found guilty of such a driving violation.
What is distracted driving in New Jersey?
Distracted driving refers to anything that diverts the attention of the driver from the road. The most common reason for this is texting and driving, but it is also the most dangerous, as it requires mental, visual and physical attention from the driver. Other types of distractions that can endanger drivers are as follows:
- Communicating via electronic devices
- Eating and drinking
- Reading any material, including maps
- Watching video
- Adjusting the radio or any other electronics in the vehicle
Although texting while driving is the most thoroughly addressed issue by driving laws in many states, you must remember that various other distractions, either inside or outside of vehicles, can increase your chances of collisions and may be grounds for a traffic citation.
Distracted Driving Laws in New Jersey for Handheld Devices
Facts about distracted driving tend to mention handheld electronics such as cellphones and tablets. In NJ texting and driving laws for these devices prohibit drivers from using handheld devices in any manner, including for talking or sending electronic messages to another person. However, devices may be used if they are hands-free. The two main exceptions to this law are as follows:
- The driver’s safety is threatened or a criminal act may be committed against the driver or another person.
- The driver must use a handheld device to contact the authorities during an emergency.
Drivers are subject to legal consequences for breaking any distracted driving laws in New Jersey as a primary offense. Additionally, anyone can report a driver of texting or driving carelessly by contacting the Dangerous Driver System hotline at #77. Reported drivers will receive a letter from the state police notifying them of potential penalties they may face if caught by an officer.
Texting and Driving Laws in New Jersey
Laws against cell phone use while driving in NJ are strict, especially if the distraction causes an accident. No texting and driving is permitted at any time unless hands-free technology is utilized, and drivers will receive larger fines and penalties for subsequent offenses. Since 2007, texting while driving has been banned for all drivers, regardless of age or driver’s license type.
New Jersey Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
Distracted driving facts provided by the NJ Department of Law and Public Safety have observed that 9 percent of drivers younger than 21 years old (i.e., novice drivers) involved in fatal crashes were reportedly distracted. They represented the age group with the largest proportion of distracted drivers. Consequently, the ban on driving distractions, particularly cellphones, for novice drivers with provisional drivers licenses was enacted in 2002, five years before the texting ban for all drivers. Unlike experienced drivers, novice drivers may not communicate via handheld or hands-free devices in any way. Additionally, violations committed by novice drivers are primary offenses.
New Jersey Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders
For most commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders, the general laws against distracted driving apply, but bus drivers are not allowed to use their cellphones (handheld or hands-free) at all while operating a commercial bus. Because NJ driving distractions for commercial drivers like bus drivers can endanger more lives, driving laws focus on decreasing the number of distractions presented to CDL holders.
Distracted Driving Penalties in New Jersey
If drivers are found guilty of distracted driving in NJ, they will receive one of the following penalties based on the number of previous infractions they have committed:
- First offenders will face a fine of up to $400.
- Second offenders will be charged up to $600 in fines.
- Third offenders will receive a fine of up to $800, incur 3 license points and potentially lose their driving privileges. These penalties also apply to all subsequent offenses.
These distracted driving penalties are subject to change at the discretion of the safety officer or court official. The accumulation period of a distracted driving ticket is 10 years, meaning each new offense within a 10-year period will receive harsher penalties.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in New Jersey
To stop distracted driving in NJ, drivers must try their best to keep their eyes on the road. A list of tips you can employ to reduce distracted driving accidents and make the roadways safer is provided below:
- Pay attention to your needs. You should be completely ready before you start driving. This means that you should have brushed your hair, eaten, used the restroom, etc. Ensuring these needs are met and continuing to acknowledge your needs as you drive may help eliminate internal distractions you may encounter.
- Limit distractions inside the vehicle. Store all loose items and make any necessary adjustments to the mirrors, GPS and other vehicle controls prior to beginning your drive. Maintaining a quiet and peaceful vehicle environment is essential for focusing on driving.
- Avoid using your devices. If you are tempted to pick up your phone mid-drive, it is best to shut it down. The NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT) encourages you to find a Safe Phone Zone or to pull out of the flow of traffic to use your device when necessary.
- Do not multitask. Distracted driving in New Jersey occurs most often when drivers are attempting to manage multiple tasks at once, so you should not try to multitask while driving.