Last year, the New Jersey Legislature passed what many are calling “the toughest hands-free cell phone law in the nation.” This year on July 1, 2014, the new bill ( P.L. 2003, c.310 ) went into effect, amending New Jersey’s Cell Phone Law ( N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3 ), which results in enhanced penalties for operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone.
The new graduated fines for cell phone use while driving are nearly on par with DUI penalties and at least one provision is the same as a DUI charge. Here are the new laws that you need to be aware of:
- Handheld cell phone use is prohibited. Hands-free devices are permissible.
- Any texting or smart phone activity (such as playing video games) while driving is prohibited.
- Drivers 21 and under with only a learner’s permit may not use any electronic device, including hands-free cell phone devices and even iPods.
Penalties for violators are as follows:
- $200 – $400 for a first offense
- $400 – $600 for a second offense
- Up to $800 for third and subsequent offenses including 3 points against license along with a possible 90-day license suspension
These new penalties now go hand-in-hand with New Jersey’s Kulesh, Kubert’s, and Bolis Law ( N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5 ).
This bill, which was amended two years ago, states that a driver could be charged with vehicular homicide if a death occurs due to a driver’s distracted cell phone use. Penalties would include a fine of up to $150,000 and prison time, similar to DUI manslaughter punishments.
One item the recent legislative session did not bring to the floor was the possible consequences of texting and driving while drunk. Statistically, the two activities combined make an extremely dangerous situation for both the driver and others on the road. Regardless if this measure is taken up in the future or not, New Jersey still remains a leader in protecting passengers and drivers on state roadways.
If you have any questions regarding the new NJ distracted driving laws that went into effect, contact our office at 973-325-7711.