Distracted Driving: Nationally and in New Jersey

What is “distracted driving?”

distracted driving, New Jersey, Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, Warren County, criminal defense, drunk driving, traffic ticket, juvenile, attorney, lawyerDistracted driving may be defined as multi-tasking while operating a moving motor vehicle. The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) defines distraction in this context as

anything that diverts the driver’s attention from the primary tasks of navigating the vehicle and responding to critical events. To put it another way, a distraction is anything that takes your eyes off the road (visual distraction), your mind off the road (cognitive distraction), or your hands off the wheel…” (emphasis added).

What are examples of distracted driving?

Common examples of distractions may include but are not limited to:

  • dialing, answering, talking or listening to another person, retrieving or leaving voicemail, or otherwise using a telephone,
  • composing, sending, reading, retrieving, looking at or listening to, or otherwise engaging with electronic messages, email, and apps either manually or with speech-to-text devices,
  • listening to music or audiobooks, and
  • operating a GPS unit,
  • talking to passengers,
  • eating,
  • grooming.

This is a non-exhaustive list.

Is distracted driving serious?

According to NHTSA, distraction-related crashes result in more than 3,000 people killed in the U.S.A. each year. Additionally, these crashes resulted in nearly half a million people injured during the same time span. Rich Bradley, “Texting & Driving,” SJFirst 5 (May/June 2013). Therefore, based on these statistics distracted driving poses a serious danger.

Do Americans take distracted driving seriously?

Among respondents in a 2012 survey by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS), 88.5% said drivers talking on cell phones somewhat or very seriously threaten their safety. Despite the apparent widespread awareness of these dangers, however, results of the the same survey indicated:

  • 68.9% of licensed drivers talked on a cell phone while driving at least once within the previous 30 days
  • 31.9% said they had done so fairly often or regularly during the same 30 day time span


What is New Jersey doing about distracted driving?

According to a NJ State Police report, “driver inattention” in 2011 contributed to 178 traffic fatalities in New Jersey. Ibid. Subsequently, New Jersey government hiked the penalties for using a cell phone while driving by amending N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3. These are the fines and penalties, as of July 1, 2014, for use of wireless telephone or electronic communication device in moving vehicles for a:

first offense, not less than $200 or more than $400;
second offense, not less than $400 or more than $600;
third or subsequent Offense, not less than $600 or more than $800, up to 90 day license suspension, and three motor vehicle commission penalty points.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3(d).

In addition to increasing the penalties for distracted driving, New Jersey government enacted “Nikki’s Law,” named in memory of Nikki Kellenyi, an 18-year old National Honor Society for Business student and champion equestrian from Washington Township, New Jersey. N.J. Senate Transportation Committee Statement to Senate Bill 2406 (May 20, 2013).

“Nikki’s Law” requires the Commissioner of Transportation to erect signs notifying motorists that State law prohibits the operator of a moving motor vehicle from text messaging and sending electronic messages via wireless telephone or electronic communication device. “Texting While Driving: Signage bill clears state committee,” SJFirst 7 (July/August 2013).

New Jersey Municipal Court Attorney Michael A. Smolensky, Esq., knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on all cases regarding driving while distracted. Call Now—(856) 812-0321.