Each year in this country thousands of people are killed and hundreds of thousands more are injured as the result of distracted driving, making distracted driving a serious threat to road safety.
Types of Distraction
The law defines distracted driving as any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. Texting is the most common of these distractions, followed closely by other uses of cell phones including talking and posting to social media. Others types of distraction include:
- Adjusting dashboard controls (radio, CD player, heater or air conditioner)
- Attending to children
- Consulting a map
- Eating or drinking (non-alcoholic)
- Grooming (applying makeup, shaving, etc.)
- Having unrestrained pets in the vehicle
- Reading (newspapers, books)
- Talking to passengers
- Using a GPS
- Watching videos
All of these activities can divert the driver’s eyes from the road momentarily, but even that may be long enough to cause an accident.
Texting has been singled out as the most serious distraction because it requires the driver’s visual, manual and cognitive attention.
Even a short message can divert a driver’s attention just long enough to put the driver, passengers and anyone else nearby in danger.
Distracted Driving vs. Driving While Intoxicated
Studies have been conducted that show the impairment level of distracted drivers is equal to, if not greater than, that of a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%, the limit at which that driver could be charged with a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). Despite this, a vast majority of drivers, both teens and adults, admit to using their cell phones, specifically for texting and, surprisingly, for posting to social media while behind the wheel. In fact, although drinking and driving has been declining in recent years, distracted driving has been on the rise.
Impairments, whether caused by drugs, alcohol or distractions, affect the driver’s ability to control his or her vehicle. These influences can cause a driver to follow too closely behind another vehicle or veer into oncoming traffic, and can affect his or her ability to brake safely.
New Jersey has been a leader in taking actions to prevent distracted driving. As with drinking and driving, the State routinely runs campaigns to reduce distracted driving behaviors using the slogan, “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”
In New Jersey, it is a primary offense to use a hand-held cell phone while driving, meaning you can be pulled over if observed engaging in this behavior. Hands-free devices are allowed, but not encouraged.
If convicted of using a hand-held cell phone while driving, you face a fine and possible suspension of your driving privileges. As with a DWI or DUI conviction, the amount of the fine would be dependent on your offense record. If your actions result in injury or death of another person, you will be subject to more severe consequences.
There are exceptions to New Jersey’s distracted driving laws allowing the use of a hand-held cell phone by a driver when:
- the driver believes his or her life or safety is in danger or that a criminal act is being committed against the driver or another person; and
- the driver is reporting a fire, accident, serious road hazard, medical emergency; or the reckless, careless or unsafe behavior of another driver, including the suspicion that the driver appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and charged with engaging in a distracted driving behavior, particularly texting and driving, it would be advisable to consult with an attorney familiar with New Jersey laws regarding motor vehicle safety.
Together, the attorneys at Rotolo Karch Law have more than 120 years of legal experience, including experience representing clients faced with motor vehicle violations. Our attorneys will look at the particulars of your case to prepare a defense to protect your rights under the State’s motor vehicle laws. Contact us at 908-534-7900 for a consultation.