In my last blog post, I tackled the issue of red-light runners. Today, I will discuss another ubiquitous hazard on the roadways: the dreaded driver who happens to be chatting away on his cell phone while cruising in his car. The facts are nearly indisputable: a motorist who is using a cell phone while driving is much more likely to cause a car crash than someone who is doing not using one. In the last several years, many states’ legislatures have started to crack down on those who talk on a cell phone while driving. New Jersey is one of the states that has put the brakes on cell phone users’ ability to simultaneously chat on the phone and drive. If you are driving and chatting on the phone in New Jersey, you can be ticketed and fined under N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3.
According to that law, the use of a wireless telephone by an operator of a moving motor vehicle on a public road or highway shall be unlawful except when the telephone is a hands-free wireless telephone, provided that its placement does not interfere with the operation of federally-required safety equipment and the operator exercises a high degree of caution in the operation of the motor vehicle. The law also provides that the operator of a motor vehicle may use a hand-held wireless telephone while driving with one hand on the steering wheel only if:
- The operator has reason to fear for his life or safety, or believes that a criminal act may be perpetrated against himself or another person; or
- The operator is using the telephone to report to appropriate authorities a fire, a traffic accident, a serious road hazard or medical or hazardous materials emergency, or to report the operator of another motor vehicle who is driving in a reckless, careless or otherwise unsafe manner or who appears to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In other words, if you’re considering calling the office on your handheld phone while cruising on the New Jersey Turnpike, think again. The boss can wait, and so can your phone call. Otherwise, you risk causing harm to yourself or others. If that doesn’t make you think twice to change your talking-and-driving habits, maybe the potentially-stressful police road stop and expensive traffic ticket will be enough to put the skids on your dangerous and unlawful conduct. And remember, ignorance of the law is no defense, so telling the cop that you didn’t know there was a cell phone law probably won’t get you off the hook. So save your calling plan’s airtime allotment (and possibly someone’s life) by staying off the phone when driving!