New Jersey defines distracted driving as anything that can divert the driver’s attention away from focusing on the road. Distracted driving endangers bystanders, passengers, and the driver. Distractions include:
- Using a smartphone or cell phone
- Talking to passengers
- Eating or drinking
- Watching a movie
- Adjusting the radio
Of these distractions, texting is the most dangerous because it takes your cognitive, manual, and visual attention away from the road. According to the State of New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, 1,600 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers between 2003 and 2012.
Drivers under the age of 21 who have a graduated license or a provisional license are not allowed to use any handheld or hands free device. In addition, for drivers of all ages, the use of handheld cell phones is not allowed when you are behind the wheel. Texting and driving is also illegal in the State of New Jersey. There are a few exceptions to these laws.
- If you fear for your life or safety
- You believe a criminal act may be perpetrated against yourself or someone else
- You need to report a traffic accident, fire, road hazard, or other hazard to emergency services
- Reporting a driver who seems like they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Options to use instead of handheld cell phones
- Speaker phone option
- Wired headset
- A Bluetooth wireless device
- Install a car kit
- Not use the phone at all while you are driving
A police officer can pull you over if they see you texting while driving, or breaking any of the laws above. They do not need to see you commit another violation first, as texting and driving alone is enough to pull you over and give you a citation. The fine for violating the texting or cell phone law is $100.
New Jersey has strict laws when it comes to using your cell phone and texting while you are driving. It is best to use a hands free option, such as a Bluetooth device or a car kit, so as to obey traffic laws and keep your attention on the road. If you find yourself still getting distracted with a hands free device, it is best to put your phone away while you drive.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Cell Phones and Texting: Distracted Driving Laws in New Jersey and was authored by Valerie Johnston.