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Understanding New Jersey’s new distracted driving law

New Jersey drivers probably are aware of the fact that it is illegal to talk to someone on a hand-held cellphone while driving and/or to send or receive a text message. Both of these activities are considered to be “primary offenses” in New Jersey. What drivers may not be aware of, however, is that other motorists can now turn them in for texting while driving. As reported by New Jersey 101.5, a new distracted driving law went into effect on July 27, 2017. Under this law, whenever anyone sees a motorist texting while driving, the observer is asked, but not required, to turn the culprit in to local law enforcement.

Naturally, a “guilty” motorist cannot be issued a citation for texting while driving based on an anonymous tip. Instead, a letter is sent to the driver’s home informing the person that someone has reported him or her for texting while driving. The letter also informs the person of the fine he or she will face should a law enforcement officer catch him or her texting while driving.

Fines under the new law

Fines for a texting while driving conviction doubled under the new law and are now quite steep. The fine for a first offense is $400. A second conviction carries a $600 fine, and a third conviction carries not only an $800 fine, but also a 90-day driver’s license suspension and points against the offender’s driving record.

Other types of distracted driving

Texting and other cellphone usage while driving are not the only prohibited activities in New Jersey. The Department of Law & Public Safety lists the following activities as examples of distracted driving:

  • Talking or otherwise interacting with passengers
  • Adjusting the heat, air conditioning, radio and/or CD player
  • Looking at the GPS system or any other video display
  • Eating and/or drinking
  • Applying makeup and/or combing one’s hair

While all of the above activities can result in an accident, texting is by far the most dangerous form of distracted driving. This is because it requires drivers to take their hands off the wheel, their eyes off the road, and their minds off of their primary job, that of driving safely.

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