According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in 2009 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) in accidents involving a distracted driver.
New Jersey lawmakers are taking this very seriously, and already NJ has some of the toughest driving while distracted laws on the books. The New Jersey Legislature is currently considering distracted driving-related bills (S1950 and A2816.)
Under this proposed new law, driving while using a cell phone would be considered reckless driving, and the penalties would include prison time and fines of up to $150,000, which are punishments similar to those for drunk driving.
In addition, if a death occurs due to a driver’s cell phone use, the driver could be charged with vehicular homicide or assault by vehicle.
The bill before the Senate is named “Kulesh and Kubert’s Law.” Helen Kulesh was a resident of Elizabeth, NJ when on Feb. 1, 2006, she was hit and killed by a driver talking on her cell phone. Phone records show the woman’s cell was in use for 21 seconds at the time of death listed by the medical examiner.
David and Linda Kubert share the legislation’s name with Kulesh. The Morris County couple each lost a leg in 2009, when a teen driver drove his pickup truck into their motorcycle as they rode through Mine Hill. While the teen denies using his cell phone, phone records seem to prove otherwise.
The bill would make it easier for prosecutors to obtain convictions for vehicular homicide or assault by auto against a person who illegally uses a cell phone while driving and, as a result, kills or injures someone.
Under current law, a person is guilty of death by auto or assault by auto when it is proven that he or she drove a motor vehicle recklessly. This bill specifically provides that the illegal use of a hand-held wireless device while driving would give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly.
Timothy Farrow, of Dash Farrow, LLP, is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former Prosecutor who handles these offense and crimes, misdemeanors, and traffic offense of all levels. When you need experienced, focused, and responsive legal help, call Dash Farrow, LLP at 856-235-8300 or contact us online. We serve individuals and businesses throughout Burlington and Camden County and all of South Jersey.