Let’s explore NJ rules regarding using a cell phone while driving. In this day and age, your cell phone is one of the few things you never leave home without. It allows us to stay in touch 24/7 with family, friends and work. Unfortunately, a lot of motorists use are using a cell phone while driving. Use of your cell phone is broadly defined to include talking, texting and the like.
I’m sure you have seen it every day on your commute to and from work. Not only can it distract someone who is driving and lead to an accident, it can also subject a person to motor vehicle fines, points and driver’s license suspensions.
In this article, let’s discuss N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3, commonly known as a “cell phone while driving violation.”
N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3 (cell phone while driving) provides:
“(a) The use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device by an operator of a moving motor vehicle on a public road or highway shall be unlawful except when the telephone is hands-free wireless telephone or the electronic communication device is used hands-free…”
The key component to remember in this portion of the statute is that if you are driving a motor vehicle on a public road/highway and you are using a cell phone/electronic communication device it needs to be hands-free. If not, there is a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3.
Hands-free means the phone has an internal feature or function, or that the phone is equipped with a phone attachment whereby a user can engage in a conversation without the use of their hands
This statute does contain certain limited exceptions to this prohibition. Those exceptions are as follows:
“(b) The operator of a motor vehicle may use a hand-held wireless telephone while driving with one hand on the steering wheel only if:
(1) 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
(2) 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 … another motor vehicle who is driving in a reckless, careless or otherwise unsafe manner or who appears to be driving under the influence…”
Penalties for Violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3
- First offense – a fine of $200.00 to $400.00. No motor vehicle penalty points.
- Second offense – a fine of $400.00 to $600.00. No motor vehicle penalty points.
Third or subsequent offense – a fine of $600.00 to $800.00. Three (3) motor vehicle points are assessed. The Court, in its discretion, may order a license suspension for a period of 90 days.
A cell phone while driving conviction that occurs more than ten (10) years after a prior conviction for the same offense, will not be considered a subsequent offense for sentencing purposes.
Before you plead guilty to any motor vehicle violation and incur fines and possible suspension of your driving privileges, schedule an appointment with an attorney experienced in handling these matters. Reach out to Puff & Cockerill today and arrange for a consultation.