Driving While on a Cell Phone Can be Worse than Driving Drunk

Cell Phone Car AccidentAlthough drunk driving is responsible for over 30% of all auto fatalities in New Jersey, cell phone usage is another major source of car accidents, especially among teens.  Statistics by the New Jersey Department of Transportation show that in 2011, there were 3,244 car crashes as a result of driving while on a cell phone.  Despite the commonly held belief that hands-free devices are much safer than hand-held devices, 1,404 of these incidents were attributed to hands-free devices.  Statistics also showed that there were injuries to drivers and passengers in 940 of these accidents, with 6 of the accidents resulting in deaths.

Tougher Cell Phone Laws Are Not Preventing Use While Driving

What is particularly alarming to experts is that the rate of cell phone-related auto accidents has not been decreasing over the years, despite tougher cell phone laws.  For instance, there were approximately 3,600 car crashes linked to driving while on a cell phone in 2006, which was two years before New Jersey laws made the usage of a hand-held device a primary violation.  Surprisingly, figures for 2011 show only a slight decrease from the 2006 figures, indicating that tougher laws have not been as effective as they have been in the case of drunk driving.  In fact, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found that in 2012, the rate of alcohol-related auto fatalities decreased by 64% since 1982.

NJ’s New Penalties for Driving While On a Cell Phone

However, the New Jersey Legislature continues to believe that enhanced penalties are the most effective way to prevent car accidents related to improper cell phone usage.  In 2013, the legislature signed into law an increase in ticket fines for violations of the state’s cellphone law, which prohibits the use of hand-held devices, and texting on any device while driving.  The past fine for driving while on a cell phone was $100, along with a $250 surcharge.  As of July 1, 2014, cell phone violation tickets have increased, now ranging from $200-$400 for a first offense.  Tickets for a second offense will cost between $400 and $600.  The most damaging consequences are for third and subsequent offenses; in addition to a ticket for $600 to $800, you can lose your driving privileges for 90 days and have 3 points added to your driving record.  Although loss of driving privileges is a penalty normally reserved for drug offenses and DWI’s, the legislature believes that driving while on a cell phone is just as, if not more dangerous than drunk driving, warranting higher penalties.

Get Advice on Your Cell Phone Ticket from a Lawyer

If you have received a ticket in New Jersey for driving while on a cell phone, please speak to the experienced traffic violations attorneys of Villani & DeLuca.  Although a cell phone ticket is a non-moving violation and does not result in a criminal record, it may affect your employment if driving is a major requirement of the job.  As of July 1, 2014, if you are a repeat offender, you may be in danger of having your license suspended for 90 days.  Losing your driving privileges can cause serious disruptions for you and your family, making it difficult to do necessary tasks such as going to work and taking your kids to school.  If you lose your job as a result of losing your driving privileges, you are also unlikely to qualify for unemployment benefits.  Our lawyers can help you determine if it’s in your best interest to fight your ticket based on your personal circumstances.  Call (732) 965-3350 to schedule a free consultation with a New Jersey traffic violations lawyer.

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