You probably don't have to think hard to remember the last time you saw someone using their cellphone while driving. More specifically, you might remember how it affected their driving ability. Maybe they were driving slowly, stopped just short or drifted closely to the center line.
All too frequently, these actions lead to an accident that can result in a serious injury to you and your passengers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving resulted in nearly 400,000 injuries and 3,500 deaths in 2015. To get a better understanding of why this is such a concern, let's look at New Jersey's distracted driving laws and the rights of drivers who are victims of crashes.
Defining distracted driving
According to state law, distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from the road while operating a vehicle including:
- Texting or talking on a cell phone
- Brushing your hair
- Reading a book, magazine or map
- Operating navigation systems
- Adjusting music on your phone or radio
Safety experts warn that distracted driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, and its prevalence is increasing year over year. But if drivers are aware of the dangers, why does distracted driving remain pervasive?
Penalties don't deter distracted driving
While we know that distracted driving equates to drunk driving, the criminal penalties are not the same. A first-offense DUI is punishable with up to 30 days in jail, $1000 fine plus administrative costs and a suspended license up to one year. However, the penalty for distracted driving is just $400, according to the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety.
The difference in penalties is reflected in driver's attitudes toward texting and driving. Many believe it is dangerous, but only 40 percent of drivers said that laws against cell phone usage had an impact on their driving habits.
Options for recovery
When criminal penalties fall short of holding drivers accountable for their wrongful actions, you can use civil litigation to earn compensation for your injuries. This process is useful because it brings justice and recovery to your level as a victim by addressing your direct needs related to medical treatment, insurance payments and more.
It may be difficult to predict the behavior of other drivers or stop them from using their cell phone behind the wheel, but you have the power to understand the law and take action toward justice as the victim of a distracted driving accident.