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Cell phone use while driving is new targeted New Jersey offense

Creating legislation always involves a balance act. Lawmakers and their community members argue over what is in the best interest of safety and whether serving that best interest is too large of a threat against personal freedoms. The conversation regarding cell phones and driving is no different.

There are those who wouldn't mind law enforcement treating drivers caught using their cell phones as repeat drunk drivers. With that argument come its opposing views. Why is cell phone use so intensely targeted when there have always been and will always be possible driving distractions?

There is a legislative proposal within the Assembly that seeks to increase the penalties for distracted driving in New Jersey:

  • A first offense of handheld phone use while driving would lead to a $200 fine versus the former $100 fine.
  • A second offense would cost $400.
  • A third offense would cost $600.

The smallest of the proposed fines, $200, is quite significant. It's a tough economy wherein peoples' budgets are strapped. In fact, some people use their phones while driving in order to keep up with their jobs so they can earn the money that they need. Strict distracted driving legislation, therefore, may impact a person's professional success.

Some who are strong supporters of strict distracted driving legislation believe that the law should go so far as to outlaw any cell phone use in the car. That argument includes the use of hands-free cell phone use. One might argue, however, that that level of legislation ignores the fact that, no matter what, there are distractions that have the possibility of leading to an accident on the roads.

Drivers have always had passengers ride with them. That could lead to distraction, right? Are parents supposed to stop driving with their kids in the backseat? Anyone with kids knows that a screaming baby in her car seat is a big driving stress.

Driving and life in general come with risks. Though laws are important to the protection of a community, they must not go too far to create a society where it is too easy for a well-meaning person to be classified as a criminal.

Our New Jersey criminal defense firm handles traffic violation cases, whether they involve distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving and more.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "Penalties for phoning, texting while driving don't go far enough: Editorial," Jan. 5, 2013