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Distracted Driving And The Law

This week Your Legal Corner discusses "Distracted Driving and the Law."

Any loss of life is tragic. When someone passes away at an advanced age, we understand this is the circle of life and we celebrate the life they have lived.

However, some losses are more tragic than others. When someone dies as a result of an avoidable accident, it can raise a variety of deep emotions on how the thoughtless actions of one can have such a devastating impact on so many people.

Distracted driving is such an issue. Driving is such an integral part of our daily lives that unfortunately people take it for granted and engage in activities that endanger other people on our roadways.

According to www.distraction.gov, distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. While there are many different activities that can be distracting, the two biggest are texting as well as using a cellphone while driving.

In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 10% of all drivers 15 to 19 years old were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of their accidents.

Laws governing distracted driving vary from state to state. In New Jersey, there is a handheld cellphone ban as well as a texting ban for all drivers. First time offenders will face a fine of $200-$400 while repeat offenders could be fined up to $600 for a second and up to $800 for a third offense. A third offense will result in three points assessed to your drivers license as well as a possible ninety (90) day drivers license suspension.

Importantly, in New Jersey, distracted driving can be used as evidence of reckless driving in a fatal motor vehicle accident prosecution to hold someone criminally responsible with up to a ten (10) year state prison term.  

In Delaware, there is a handheld cellphone ban as well as a texting ban. In both New Jersey and Delaware, texting while driving and handheld cellphone use are primary offenses that can result in the issuance of a motor vehicle summons by the police.

Pennsylvania has a texting ban with a fine of $50 plus court costs. This is a primary offense. There is no handheld cellphone ban.

While police are certainly on the front lines of traffic enforcement especially when it comes to distracted driving, deterrence is but one component.

Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss "Distracted Driving and Community Awareness."

Victoria M. Dalton is a dedicated Family/Elder Law Attorney with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio. Send correspondence here or call 856-845-8243.

Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational material about the law and is not legal advice.

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