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Distracted Driving in New Jersey: How it Affects Your Auto Accident Case

November 07, 2023

Distracted Driving in New Jersey: How it Affects Your Auto Accident Case

In recent years, distracted driving has become an epidemic in the United States. As technology continues to progress, so do the distractions that accompany it. Particularly in densely populated states like New Jersey, the implications of distracted driving for car accidents cannot be understated. This article, presented by DiTomaso Law, will delve into the intricate details of distracted driving, New Jersey laws, and its repercussions on auto accident cases.

Defining Distracted Driving

Distracted driving goes beyond just texting and driving. It encapsulates any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving. Distractions can be categorized into three main types:

  • Visual Distractions: Taking your eyes off the road. This could be glancing at your phone, looking at a billboard, or attending to kids in the backseat.
  • Manual Distractions: Engaging your hands in something other than steering. Examples include eating, adjusting the radio, or reaching for something in the glove compartment.
  • Cognitive Distractions: Thinking about something unrelated to driving. This could be engrossed in a deep conversation, daydreaming, or being lost in thought about an upcoming meeting.

Any of these distractions can significantly reduce your reaction time and impair judgment, increasing the chances of an accident.

New Jersey Laws on Distracted Driving

New Jersey is among the states that have taken a proactive stance against distracted driving, recognizing its potential dangers and implications on road safety. The state has implemented several laws aimed at reducing distractions behind the wheel and ensuring safer roads for everyone. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

Cell Phone and Texting Laws

  • Handheld Devices: Under New Jersey Statute 39:4-97.3, using a handheld device while operating a motor vehicle is strictly prohibited. This includes talking, texting, or any other use. If caught, drivers face stiff fines, and repeated offenses can result in increased fines and other penalties.
  • Hands-Free Devices: While the use of hands-free devices is permitted, if they impair the ability to drive safely or cause a distraction that leads to unsafe driving, they can still be considered a source of distracted driving.

Novice Drivers and Special Restrictions

  • Drivers under the age of 21 with a learner’s permit or an initial/probationary license (sometimes referred to as a “red decal” license) are prohibited from using any cell phone device, whether it’s handheld or hands-free, barring certain emergencies.

Commercial and Public Transport Drivers

  • Bus Drivers: New Jersey law prohibits bus drivers from using a cell phone while driving, except in the case of emergencies or if the bus is parked.
  • Commercial Drivers: Similar restrictions apply to drivers with a commercial driver’s license. The use of handheld devices while driving a commercial vehicle is prohibited, and violations can result in disqualification from holding a commercial driver’s license.

Penalties for Violations

The penalties for violating New Jersey’s distracted driving laws are designed to deter drivers from engaging in such behaviors:

  • First Offense: A fine of $200 to $400.
  • Second Offense: A fine of $400 to $600.
  • Third and Subsequent Offenses: A fine of $600 to $800, three motor vehicle penalty points, and a possible 90-day license suspension.


  • Drivers are permitted to use handheld devices if they believe their life or safety is in danger or if they believe a criminal act may be perpetrated against themselves or another person. However, these instances are the exceptions and not the rule.

How Distracted Driving Affects Liability and Compensation

In New Jersey, determining fault in an auto accident is crucial due to its no-fault system. If you or someone you know is involved in an accident, understanding the role of distracted driving in determining liability and compensation is crucial.

Evidence of Negligence

In any auto accident claim, proving negligence is fundamental. Distracted driving can serve as a compelling piece of evidence indicating a driver’s negligence. Examples of distractions include:

  • Texting or using a phone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio or navigation system
  • Conversing with passengers

If it can be demonstrated that a driver was engaged in any of these activities, it strengthens the case that their negligence contributed to or caused the accident.

Modified Comparative Negligence in New Jersey

New Jersey operates under a “modified comparative negligence” system. This means that the compensation a person can receive from an accident is reduced by the percentage they are found to be at fault. If a victim is deemed to be more than 50% responsible, they are barred from receiving any compensation.

In the context of distracted driving, if one party can prove that the other was distracted at the time of the accident, it may increase the latter’s percentage of fault, thereby potentially increasing the compensation the non-distracted driver is entitled to.

Impact on Insurance Claims

Insurance companies keenly investigate the causes of an accident before determining compensation. If it’s found that their policyholder was distracted and primarily at fault, they might have to pay a more substantial claim to the other party. On the flip side, if you’re found to be at fault due to distraction, your insurance premiums might increase, or your policy could even be at risk of non-renewal.

Punitive Damages

While most damages awarded in auto accident cases are compensatory (meant to compensate the victim for their losses), there are instances where punitive damages can be awarded. Punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault party for particularly reckless behavior and to deter similar behavior in the future. If a driver was egregiously distracted—say, watching a movie on a tablet while driving—it’s possible for the court to award punitive damages to the victim.

The Role of Cell Phone and Texting Laws

New Jersey’s laws explicitly prohibit the use of handheld devices while driving. If a driver is found to have breached this law at the time of the accident, it serves as strong evidence of negligence. This can heavily weigh in on the determination of fault and the subsequent compensation.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer at DiTomaso Law for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

Distracted driving is not just a dangerous act; it carries profound legal implications, especially in states like New Jersey with stringent laws in place. While the law is evolving to counteract this menace, it’s vital for drivers to be informed and vigilant. Accidents resulting from such behavior can severely impact the compensation and liability determinations in auto accident cases.

If you or someone you know has been affected by a distracted driving accident in New Jersey, seeking legal representation can be invaluable. DiTomaso Law is committed to advocating for the rights of those affected by negligent drivers. Reach out to us today to understand how we can help navigate the complexities of your case and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

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