As of last week, distracted drivers in New Jersey who are caught texting or talking on their handheld cellphones while driving are facing tougher penalties. The higher consequences for handheld cellphone use while driving are the result of a bill passed and signed into law in 2013.
New Jersey law bans all drivers from handheld cellphone use, including texting and talking on a handheld device and other activities that require manual operation, such as emailing, browsing the web, and playing games. Currently, drivers who violate the distracted driving law face a fine of $100, no matter how many prior offenses they have.
Under the new law, which officially went into effect on July 1, distracted drivers caught texting or talking on a handheld cellphone face a fine of $200 to $400 after a first offense, a fine of $400 to $600 after a second offense, and a fine of $800 after a third offense. Third-time offenders may also lose their license for 90 days. For every offense distracted drivers commit after their third, they receive three motor vehicle penalty points, which increase their government fees and insurance costs.
To remind New Jersey’s drivers about the new law, North Plainfield Police Chief William Parenti and Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano are teaming up to send a strong message about the consequences of distracted driving. On Wednesday, July 9 and Friday, July 18, Somerset County law enforcement will add more patrol cars to the county’s roads and highways to look for distracted drivers and enforce the new penalties.
Somerset County has led the fight against distracted driving in New Jersey since launching the “Put It Down” campaign in 2011. Through the campaign, law enforcement officials have spent three years spreading the message that distracted driving is not only dangerous but against the law in New Jersey. Law enforcement in the state are hoping that the increased penalties and high enforcement activities will reaffirm that message.