Any activity that takes your eyes and mind off the road while you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle can be considered distracted driving. Such a diversion, even a just a brief one, can endanger your life and the lives of everyone else on the road. Advances in technology and new electronic devices have only served to increase the number of hazardous distractions that pose risks to driver in New York and New Jersey roads. In fact, during 2010 alone, 3,092 people were killed in car crashes that involved some form of distracted driving and approximately 416,000 people were injured because of someone who was driving while distracted. Studies show that drivers on cell phones are more impaired than motorists who have a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, the legal limit in both New York and New Jersey.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a distracted driver, it is obviously important to get medical attention right away, but seeking legal guidance is also essential. Statistics show that accident victims who are represented by a lawyer receive three times the compensation paid to individuals without legal assistance.
New York and New Jersey Distracted Driving Laws
Both New York and New Jersey have created laws to deter drivers from engaging in distractions behind the wheel. In New York, all cell phone use in a car must be through a hands-free device and the following activities are illegal while driving:
- Composing, sending, reading, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving electronic data such as email, text messages or webpages,
- Viewing, taking or transmitting images, and
- Playing games.
Violators of this law face a fine of as much as $150 and 3 driver’s license penalty points. These rules are considered primary laws, so a police officer can stop any driver seen using a handheld device, except New York drivers cannot be penalized simply for using an electronic device that is affixed to a vehicle or a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle. Also, a driver who uses a handheld device to report an emergency will not get charged with violating the law.
New Jersey law is also tough on distracted driving. It is illegal to talk on a handheld cell phone or text while operating a motor vehicle and bus drivers and novice drivers are banned from using any cell phone at the same time they are operating their vehicles. New Jersey considers these state regulations to be primary laws as well. An offender who is found guilty of vehicular manslaughter because of cell phone usage could spend 10 years in prison for this crime.
Types of Distracted Driving in New York and New Jersey
Unfortunately, distracted driving is a way of life for many motorists today. Cell phone use and texting top the list of potentially lethal distractions behind the wheel. One of the reasons these electronic devices are so dangerous is that they require drivers to take their eyes off the road. In addition, these types of devices demand cognitive focus, which reduces a driver’s ability to think clearly in dangerous situations on the road. This could mean the difference between life and death for the driver, passengers, and whoever else is nearby.
Although electronic devices can prove to be deadly in an accident, there are other hazardous distractions that may also play a role in a crash. Some examples of these types of diversions include:
- Tuning a car radio or iPod,
- Programming a GPS device,
- Reading a map or other paperwork,
- Eating, drinking or smoking,
- Personal grooming,
- Talking with a passenger, and
- Tending to children.
Recovering Compensation After a NY / NJ Distracted Driving Accident
While distracted driving is a punishable offense in both New York and New Jersey, criminal prosecution does not help pay for the potential medical bills, lost wages, and other major expenses that become a burden to the victims. A personal injury claim can help you recover your losses, regardless of whether the distracted driver who caused your crash was charged with breaking a law. A personal injury claim may provide you with the compensation you need for your losses, including compensation for pain and suffering. By consulting an experienced personal injury attorney, you can learn the different legal options available to you in a lawsuit against the offending distracted driver and his or her insurance company.