You’ve likely seen them while out running errands or traveling along the New Jersey Turnpike. Drivers talking, texting and looking at their cellphones while driving. Despite the fact that it’s illegal in New Jersey to talk on a handheld cellphone or text while driving, many drivers continue to engage in these highly distracting and dangerous behaviors on a daily basis.
In an effort to punish drivers who violate cellphone driving laws, last year Gov. Chris Christie signed new legislation that will increase fines for drivers who fail to abide by these laws. Currently, a driver who is discovered to be texting or talking on a hand-held cellphone faces fines of up to $100. Come July 1, however, those fines will increase significantly to between $200 to $600 for first and second offenses and up to $800 plus insurance penalties for subsequent offenses.
In addition to increases in fine amounts, police officers in 10 counties throughout the state are currently engaged in a three-week safety campaign known as “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”, the result of which an estimated 3,000 citations have already been issued. The campaign and fine increases are part of the state’s long-term plans to educate drivers and ultimately stigmatize dangerous cellphone driving behaviors.
During the last decade, in New Jersey alone, more than 1,600 people lost their lives in car accidents caused by distracted drivers. If drivers don’t change their views and behaviors, the lives of many more will likely be lost in the coming years. To prevent becoming a statistic, New Jersey residents are advised to stow cellphones while driving and only use a cellphone in the case of an emergency.